Can Cutting Out a Little Meat Help Keep Cancer Away?

How to Go Pro-tein

When people talk about how they follow vegetarian diets so they can live longer, do you hear yourself saying, “Give up meat — nope, never gonna happen”?

But believe it or not, you don’t have to go full-on vegetarian or vegan to enjoy the potential health benefits. In fact, you may cut your chance of getting cancer in half if you replace just one meat meal per week with a vegetarian dish. Imagine that. If you substitute one veggie burger for one ham sandwich each week, you might stave off an early cancer diagnosis.

Here’s the research that supports that claim:

In Japan, researchers studied 71,000 people for nearly 20 years. Many of those Japanese participants replaced red meat and processed meat with plant-based protein during 4 percent of their weekly meals. That’s basically just one meal a week.

Those eaters who sometimes ate plant-based protein were half as likely to die of cancer compared with people who never replaced their beef, poultry, pork or seafood with a single vegetarian option.

What’s more, those occasional plant-based protein eaters were 46 percent less likely to die of a cause like cardiovascular disease.

Plant-based diets have been shown to have many health benefits, including weight loss, controlling diabetes, and preventing cancer. You don’t have to eliminate meat entirely to improve your health. Even having one or two meatless meals each week, increasing the amount of colorful vegetables you eat, can make you healthier.

— Carolyn Schut, MS, RD, LD, CLC, Health Plan of Nevada, Health Education & Wellness

In fact, there’s even a new word for these kinds of crossover foodies: “flexitarians.” They’re eaters who replace meat dishes with vegetarian food sometimes but not always.

Flexitarians are the restaurant customers who are eating most of the plant-based Impossible burgers and Beyond burgers.

A whopping 95 percent of restaurant customers who order plant-based burgers are flexitarians, according to the NPD Group, a leading market research group.

Of course, even a plant-based burger in a restaurant usually has a lot of sodium in it. So keep that in mind if you’re battling health concerns such as high blood pressure or cardiovascular problems.

As for home cooking, adding plant-based protein like beans, lentils, chickpeas, nuts, seeds, soy, and tofu to your diet is easier than ever.

Here’s a look at some simple plant-based protein meals you can consider adding to your mealtime rotation in place of meat dishes (we put protein information in parentheses). Keep in mind that the average man needs about 56 grams of protein. The average woman needs 46 grams. That’s 0.36 grams per body pound.

So you see, once a week, you may be able to get a lot of your daily recommended protein from just one of these plant-based options. It won’t change who you are, but it may help you live a longer, healthier life.

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