Here’s yet another reason to observe Meatless Mondays … and Tuesdays and Wednesdays and Thurs—well, you get the idea. A new Harvard School of Public Health study shows that eating processed meats and red meat can increase one’s risk of type 2 diabetes—a potentially deadly condition that can cause blindness; heart, eye, and kidney problems; and nerve damage and affect circulation in the legs—by as much as 51 percent!
And they’re not just talking about ardent carnivores who eat 10 strips of bacon for breakfast, a couple of hot dogs at the ballpark, and a massive cheeseburger for dinner. Anyone who eats just 3.5 ounces of processed meat—equivalent to two slices of bacon or a hot dog—every day has a 51 percent increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. People who eat one 100-gram serving of red meat—about the size of a deck of cards—a day have a 19 percent greater risk of developing the disease.
Unfortunately, the average American meat-eater will consume twice that amount of meat each day—and that’s no bologna. According to Mark Bittman, Americans eat about eight ounces of meat each day—or about twice as much meat as the average person worldwide.
Not surprisingly, America spend more money on health care than does any other nation. Records show that approximately 25 million people in the U.S. now have diabetes and that around 57 million others have pre-diabetes. The saturated fat, cholesterol, and heme iron found in animal products put people at risk of developing diabetes—or worsening the disease if they already have it.
Fortunately, people can prevent—and even reverse—diabetes by eating a healthy plant-based diet. According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), “Vegetarian diets provide a nutrient combination that is likely to be beneficial in treating diabetes and preventing complications …. Not only does the diet help control blood sugar, but, because whole grains, nuts, viscous fibers, soy proteins, and plant sterols lower serum cholesterol concentrations, the diet also helps prevent cardiovascular complications. Substituting soy or other vegetable proteins for animal protein may also reduce the risk of diabetes-related kidney problems.”
A 2006 study led by Dr. Neal Barnard, the president of PCRM, suggests that diabetics who eat low-fat vegan foods are able to stop taking medications—or at least take fewer of them—to manage the disease. Many study participants also lost weight and lowered their cholesterol just by switching to a vegan diet.
In his book, Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes, Dr. Barnard encourages diabetics to choose foods from PCRM’s “New Four Food Groups”: grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. Everyone, diabetic or not, can enjoy the innovative meal ideas and recipes in the book. For more tasty, disease-fighting recipes, check out PETA’s recipe section.