Fresh red meat probably causes cancer and processed meat definitely does according to a new report by the IARC, a branch of the World Health Organisation.
The past few days the worldwide press has been exploding with reports that red meat would be listed as a carcinogen alongside cigarettes and alcohol.
A carcinogen by definition, is a substance which causes cancer.
Although the report hasn't conclusively linked fresh red meat to cancer, it has said it is probable. These findings have been followed by an outcry from the meat industry.
When I read an article about this a few days ago, it was looking likely the IARC were going to brand red meat as a carcinogen and the article came with a survey. What shocked me most about this story was that when I read the results, 51% of people said they wouldn't eat less red meat in spite of the findings.
I've really cut down on the amount of meat I eat as a whole over the past year. And it's not as difficult as it initially seems!
When I first met my boyfriend I realised we were a great match from the start. We got on so well as friends before we started going out and talked almost every day.
Everything seemed to be going great, but there was only one problem which everyone kept talking about.
He has been brought up vegetarian and I, a carnivore.
When we first met it was at a friend's birthday party. As I walked there with my friend he said, "Have you eaten yet?" I told him it said on the Facebook event that there was going to be food and I hadn't had a chance after work.
"Ohhh, big mistake," he told me, "Jack's cooking which means it'll all be veggie rubbish. You'll be hungry an hour later. I ate half a pizza before I came to meet you, I'm not touching the food there!"
I arrived and tucked into the sweet potato chilli and rice. It was a bit spicy for me but really delicious. I was hungry an hour later but I'll put it down to the fact that I'm not great at eating in front of others.
Once I graduated, I started splitting my time between Jack's home in Edinburgh and my parents house in Inverness while I was looking for a job.
This meant that for a few weeks at a time, I was going to be fully vegetarian. This was the point which all my friends and my parents were concerned about. It was seen as a fundamental lifestyle difference.
But then something strange happened. I forgot about meat. I didn't miss it and only occasionally would it cross my mind.
I'm lucky that although Jack believes in the ethics behind being vegetarian, disagreeing with the horrible conditions animals are often housed in and the damage animal farming causes to the environment, he doesn't try to push any of his values onto me. I can do what I want. This I feel has had the opposite effect and made me want to eat meat less.
Now I would say I eat a minimal meat diet.
We always eat the same dinner and only once or twice a week I'll have some fish with mine while Jack will usually have cheese. I cook meat only once every two weeks or so but if we're out for food I sometimes order it. This means the quantities of meat I eat are less as I tend to order something like a pasta with bacon or chicken.
For someone who loves food, I've found that I can eat far bigger portions of veggie food than I ever could with meat without putting weight on. And best of all, I can eat more cheese!
Another recent survey suggested that the effect of cheese on the brain is similar to that of crack. This is because a chemical called casein sets off the opioid receptors in our brain which results in feelings of reward and addiction. Often I substitute meat for cheeses like halloumi. It's maybe even more unhealthy in terms of fats, but you don't get the other bad things that come with red or processed meats. Besides, vegetables are easier to digest so it's okay to throw in an extra bit of cheese here and there.
I really enjoy my diet now and the only time we bicker about food is if someone is getting a bigger portion. It turns out that everything I thought about being with a vegetarian was wrong.
Now I have a new job I'm going to be moving down South to live on my own. Cancer is very prominent in my close family so I'm planning on keeping up my minimal meat diet to try reduce the risk of developing it.
The change I've made is quite an extreme one, but following the WHO's new guidelines if you fancy swapping a meat dish here or there for a vegetarian one, here's a list of some of our favourite recipes:
An Italian recipe traditionally made with anchovies, you still get a really savoury sauce if you leave them out.
We usually coat the halloumi in paprika on one side, and pepper the other because it gives it more flavour. Halloumi is great in any salad, especially with sweet fruits or citrus. Also, if we're having a halloumi salad for dinner we make roast potatoes and root veg with it to bulk it out or have some bread with it.
One of my favourites especially in the winter months.
Sweet Potato Chilli:
Another great winter food which you can make batches of and freeze.
As well as these there are all the usual meals like mac and cheese, stir fry, curry etc. I've learned that for almost every meal that I used to make, I can substitute the meat for something else.