Beef, chicken, and fish are my staple sources of protein, especially for weeknight dinners. While that’s not changing anytime soon, I’ve often wondered how much of each protein to eat in order to stay healthy. Since I was never 100 percent sure about that, I often reduced my portion sizes and tried adding plant-based options like beans and lentils. Luckily, the guessing game is over for me, as new research offers a simple diet rule of thumb for enjoying these protein sources that may help lower cancer risk!
A recent study published in the journal BMC Medicine looked at the relationship between diet habits and cancer, especially in cases of colon and breast cancer that occur in women after menopause. This study included 472,377 cancer-free adults from the UK Biobank who were between the ages of 40 and 70. Participants completed questionnaires between 2006 and 2010 asking how often they consumed meats such as beef, lamb, chicken, and fish. Afterwards, participants were divided into four categories: meat-eaters, low meat-eaters, fish-eaters, and vegetarians.
The authors defined regular meat eaters as consuming processed or red meat and poultry more than five times a week. Low meat-eaters reported that they consumed meat and poultry less than five times each week. Fish-eaters noted that they only ate oily and non-oily fish. The vegetarian group didn’t eat either fish, meat, or poultry. However, that group included vegans who noted that they don’t consume dairy or eggs as well.
The Tasty Findings
After an 11.4 year follow up period, researchers reported 54,961 incident cases of cancer. The findings showed that being a low meat-eater, fish-eater, or vegetarian was linked to a decreased risk of cancer in general. Those who were low meat-eaters had a lower risk of colorectal cancer compared to the regular meat-eaters. Researchers acknowledged that this was an observational study and will need further research to delve more into the possible reasons for these results.
However, they did find a potential answer as to why postmenopausal vegetarian women in the study were shown as having a decreased risk of breast cancer. The authors claimed that this specific finding might be due to their lower body mass index (BMI), which previous studies have also suggested. When it comes to meat and decreased risk of cancer, it seems best to limit intake to fewer than five times a week.
However, fish is a different story. The American Heart Association recommends that women over 40 eat omega-3 rich fish such as salmon and sardines twice a week. This can help you to avoid medical events like heart attack and stroke.
Afraid of going totally veg? Add some easy vegetarian meals into your weekly dinner roster with this easy recipe for sheet-pan baked feta with veggies. Or review our list of 10 vegetarian recipes that won’t make you miss meat. As always, consult with your doctor before making any diet changes to ensure that it will be beneficial for you health-wise.
I guess it’s time for me to start reimagining my dinners and allowing veggies to take center stage. Who knows — my body just might give me a standing ovation!