by Kelvin Belfon
I’ve been thinking about my meat consumption. Over the years, a few casual conversations, documentaries and books have caused me to question my food choices.
Here is a little personal background.
I grew up an omnivore. In Grenada I consumed fish, chicken, beef, pork, mutton, and lamb. Meat was the main part of every meal. One of my favorite dishes is curry chicken, rice and peas, fried plantains, and a side salad. Yum!
When I migrated to the United States I piled on more meat. As I got exposed to American favorites, I added those to my menu of choices hamburgers, steaks, turkeys, BBQs, and traditional island cuisines such as jerk chicken.
Because I am naturally skinny, I’ve never felt the need to pay much attention to the health risks involved in consuming too much meat. But lately, I’ve been doing some soul searching.
You see, our meat is not what it used to be.
This is the case in America as much as it is in the islands, which have seen a significant increase of imported meats. The animals we eat are injected with an alarming amount of hormones to increase production. Then there are factors of inhumane animals practices that I’ve learned about over the recent years. The treatment of animals raised for food is deeply troubling me.
The health reasons are also significant:
- Red meat contain a significant amount of saturated fat and cholesterol, two risk factors for cardiovascular disease
- Red meat is a chief source of heme iron which is a contributing factor to Type 2 diabetes
- High consumption of red meat increases the risk of colorectal cancer
- Processed meats have high levels of sodiums and nitrates. Sodium can raise blood pressure and increase the risk of stroke and heart disease. Nitrates can damage blood vessels and are associated with insulin response.
- Eating red meat that is well done, especially on the grill can contribute to prostate cancer in men. Check out these articles which discuss Meat and Prostate Cancer and Cooking Practices and Genetic Susceptibility to Prostate Cancer. source
Like most American, I’ve maintained an arms length awareness about the risks of consuming too much meat. Giving up meat altogether is a difficult decision. There’s a certain emotional payoff that comes with meat eating especially when it’s a central part of celebrations and holidays. Also, in my mind, a dish without meat is incomplete. It’s a reminder to me of poor upbringings.
So My 30-Day No Meat Challenge is just as much a health challenge as much as it is a reshaping of how and what I think about meat. It’s a test of my personal boundaries. I want to push the limits of my thinking to see what my life would be without consuming meats for the next 30 days (I started January 1).
Here’s my personal ground rule:
- I will not consume red meat or any processed version of pork, beef, lamb or mutton.
- I will not consume any poultry or processed version of chicken or turkey.
- I will explore other non-meat, plant based protein sources, giving preference to those sources that are least processed. Produce will make up the bulk of my meals.
- I won’t exclude fish in this experiment, but I won’t consume it to the degree that it’s just a replacement for the meat I’m cutting out.
- I will evaluate the experiment after 30 days to see if it’s something I could give up over a much longer period.
I’d love to hear from other about this subject. Have you given up meat before? If so, what were the challenges you faced?