Are the Foods You Eat Killing You?

I saw an interesting story on The Today Show while getting ready for work this morning, regarding a study on the connection between red meat consumption and life expectancy. Just how much of an impact are we talking? Depends on if you’re chowing down on a filet or a hot dog.

Now, let me start by saying that I’m by no means a dietician or nutritionist. Nor am I a vegan, or even a vegetarian for that matter – although if you asked my dad, he’d tell you I eat nothing but chicken and Greek yogurt. (Not true.) I’ll even admit to enjoying a nice steak a couple times a year, but as a general rule, my palate tends to agree better with something of the light/white variety (chicken, turkey, seafood).

And while I’ll agree that most research does warrant further examination – I wrote enough research studies in college to know there’s a reason they result in “findings,” not “proof” – the studies on red meat consumption do consistently find that the quality of meat – again, that filet vs. hot dog – is where the biggest impact is seen. Exactly how big of an impact? Well, the 20-year study found that not only does consistent red meat consumption lead to increased inflammation, risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer, it only took one serving of red meat (the size of a deck of cards – good luck finding a restaurant that serves a steak that small) to increase mortality risk over time – up to a 13% increase for unprocessed red meat, and jumping to 20% for processed red meat.

Still need more reason to step away from the hot dog? How about these numbers: mortality risk decreased when subject consumed fish (7%), poultry (14%), nuts (19%), legumes (10%), low-fat dairy (10%), and whole grains (14%).

I’m not going to go as far as to say you should give up red meat altogether, or that we should all live off of produce organically grown in our backyards (I live in an apartment, thus no backyard, and I inherited my mother’s knack for killing plants, so clearly that’s not happening anytime soon). It’s not realistic for most people.

What I will say is that it is important to be aware of the types and quality of the food we ingest each day, and how our bodies respond to them. Think about how it makes our bodies feel. Do we feel strong, energized, and healthy, or do we feel sluggish and tired? The foods we eat are the fuel that gets us through our days, and the more balanced our diets, the more efficient our bodies. I read a good analogy not too long ago – would you put low-grade gasoline into a Porche? No. So why would you put processed junk into your body? It’s the same thing.

Want to read more about this study? You can check it out here.