• Bryan Dennstedt

FORKS OVER KNIVES | Meat Vs. Plants

When people ask me what brought about my decision to become plant-based, I always reference the 2011 film, Forks Over Knives.


There were a number of factors that convinced me to ditch the meat, but Forks Over Knives was the nudge over the edge that I needed to completely commit. In fact, it wasn’t so much a nudge as a weighty and boisterous shove!


I wasn’t in poor health per se, but I knew that my dietary choices were having a detrimental effect, both on my body and the planet. Carrying more weight than I would have liked, I was feeling heavy, sluggish, low in energy and, without too much investigation, I realized that meat and dairy were almost solely responsible.

I soon discovered, through Forks Over Knives and my own research, that the food we eat (and predominantly meat and dairy) is the underlying cause of so many of our modern health issues

From simple issues such as acne and eczema to life-threatening diseases including cancer, diabetes and obesity, animal products have a significant impact upon our health.


It’s a scary subject to read about, but whatever your choice of diet, learning more about the health risks of animal products is highly recommended.


Cancer

The big ‘C’ word is a very real shadow that hangs over us all. Smoking, drinking, stress, pollution - it seems like the list of cancer-inducing causes grows longer every week.

Red meat is very hard for humans to digest. It sits in our gut for a long time, placing undue stress on our digestive tract. Without being able to pass meat quickly enough, we end up with an increasingly toxic buildup of meat. Understandably, this can easily lead to colorectal and stomach cancer. But it goes further.

Red meat has also been linked to lung, pancreas, prostate and even nasopharyngeal (the upper throat, just behind the nose) cancer [1]

Processed meat is even worse. Red meat is classified as a Group 2A carcinogen. This means it is classified as as a likely cause of cancer. Though not guaranteed, it is probable that red meat will induce cancer growth. Processed meat - including bacon, hot dogs, sausages and canned meat - a Group 1 carcinogens. They have actually been proven to regularly cause cancer, in the same way as smoking, drinking and the sun does. [2]

While it is recommended that we should all reduce red meat intake, it is strongly advised to eliminate processed meats entirely, such is the risk of cancer. [3]


The Silver Lining

Obviously, reducing your meat intake, especially of processed meats, will also reduce the risk of cancer. But more than that, it has been proven that all those things we eat to replace meat - legumes, lentils and grains such as rice and quinoa - can actually reduce the risk by 20 percent or more [4]


Heart Disease

While some heart diseases are inherited others are induced, but either way, reducing or eliminating red meat can have a huge effect on reducing the risk.


The National Institutes of Health found that eating red meat daily triples the production of Trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) - a chemical closely linked to heart disease. This dramatic increase is more than enough to produce induced heart disease, but can quite literally be a death sentence for those already genetically vulnerable.

Even more profoundly, it has been conclusively proven that the consumption of all animal products can increase the risk of Ischemic or Coronary Heart Disease. This includes red meat, eggs, poultry, dairy and even fish [5]

The Silver Lining

The production of TMAO drastically reduces after just one month on a plant-based diet. “This study shows for the first time what a dramatic effect changing your diet has on levels of TMAO, which is increasingly linked to heart disease,” states Dr Stanley L. Hazen of the Cleveland Clinic [6].


Diabetes

Up to 10 percent of the US population suffers from some form of diabetes. While it is quite easily manageable with drugs such as insulin, it can still be incredibly dangerous, with subsequent effects including cardiovascular disease, kidney damage and loss of sight. Diabetics are also up to twice as likely to suffer from depression.

Diabetes has often been blamed upon a high sugar intake, but animal products, especially red meat, are now thought to be one of the primary culprits

As with both heart disease and cancer, a medium to high red meat intake can greatly increase your chances in contracting diabetes. The added impact of elevated weight, even obesity, on a meat-heavy diet is also a leading cause of diabetes onset.


The Silver Lining

Experts now consider a plant-based diet to be the best option for both preventing and controlling diabetes [7]. Not only does reducing or eliminating meat decrease the risk, a plant-based diet can actually reduce the risk and control a preexisting condition of diabetes.

Obesity

Obesity is having a huge impact on the American public. The obesity levels of the US population are creeping dangerously close to 50 percent - every second person is classified as obese to some level.


There are numerous factors that lead to this, including the quality of food we are eating, the amount, and our sedentary lifestyles and lack of exercise.


As with diabetes, sugar has often been attributed as the primary cause of obesity. Sugary sodas, candies and all manner of sweet snacks have shouldered the burden almost alone for America’s weight problem.

However, research now shows that meat is not just partly, but equally to blame for obesity [8].

More specifically, it is the excess protein we receive from meat that causes us to produce more fat for energy storage.


The Silver Lining

Whether weight loss is an aim or not, moving to a plant-based diet actively encourages weight loss. More specifically, it reduces your body mass index (BMI), so rather than you dropping weight continually until you are skin and bone, a plant-based diet will help you drop the excess and plateau at a healthier weight, even if you don’t actually reduce your food intake.

Alzheimer’s & Dementia

Dairy, meats, oils, snack pastries, and fried foods have all been found to impair brain health, elevating the chances of Alzheimer’s and dementia. It should be noted that vitamin B12 can help prevent Alzheimer’s, though it is recommended that a supplement is taken, rather than turning to animal products for your B12 intake. The “trans-fats found in dairy products, meats, pastries, and fried foods can increase the risk for cognitive decline.” [9]


It’s also worth mentioning that refined white foods, including white bread, pasta and white sugar, may also create spikes in insulin and toxify the brain, so opt for wholegrain, organic and unrefined products wherever possible.


The Silver Lining

The benefits of a plant-based diet are two-fold in regards to Alzheimer’s and dementia

Firstly, Fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains are linked to the prevention of Alzheimer’s. Secondly, consuming vitamin E, gained from green leafy vegetables, seeds and nuts, will help you develop a healthier, stronger, more resilient brain. Unfortunately, the cerebral effects of a dietary shift are slow, so moving to a plant-based diet for better brain function is recommended as early as possible.


Libido

High-cholesterol, high-fat diets can drastically reduce your blood flow. Without getting crass, I’m sure you can imagine what this means. But added to the obvious - how can I put it? - ‘lack of inflation’, this can also be detrimental to your most sexually active organ: your brain.

Your brain is more responsible for your sexual performance than other more obvious appendages, so when fats and cholesterols are stemming your oxygen and blood flow, they are also diminishing your ability to perform [10]

Lastly, if you’re carrying excess weight from a diet high in animal products, your self-esteem and physical appeal will also be below your true potential.


The Silver Lining

A number of vegan foods, including cayenne pepper, dark chocolate, fruits, leafy greens, sunflower seeds and beets, actively increase circulation, blood flow and oxygenation, acting as aphrodisiacs in many ways. You can bring your sexual health back very rapidly on a plant-based diet and you will also reap the benefits of feeling more energized, healthier, more alert and more confident.


Complexion

Your skin is your largest organ. It helps to oxygenate your body, expel toxins, and obviously protect and keep everything in place. So it’s not much of a surprise that those same toxins often result in bad skin conditions. Eczema and acne are very different problems, but both can be massively exacerbated by one thing: dairy. Meats, especially fried or processed eats, can lead to elevated oil levels and more pimples, but this is more on an incidental level than the actual cause.


It has been found that whey and casein, the proteins in milk, trigger hormone production which, in turn, can cause outbreaks of acne, just as the hormone riot taking place during puberty is also likely to produce pimples. Curiously, much research points towards skim milk - not a full cream milk as you might suspect - to be one of the biggest culprits. [11]

Eczema is different. It is, in simple terms, an allergic reaction of sorts. It’s far more complex than simply being a rash, and is often a lifelong burden to those who suffer from it. But the way it reacts is very similar to other allergies. Dairy can frequently cause allergic reactions and inflammation. This bodily reaction frequently results in perhaps not causing, but certainly exacerbating eczema. [12]

The Silver Lining

The fix is almost instant. When dairy products are stopped, the body immediately begins to heal. The healing process may take a while, and it might not be absolute, but a significant reduction in symptoms is often found very soon after ditching the dairy.


People suffering from major outbreaks of acne have time and again proven that eliminating dairy can have a significant effect on your skin’s health. Added to this, a plant-based shift is also likely to make you more health-conscious, perhaps exercise a little more, reduce your sugar intake and so on, and all of which can have a resoundingly positive effect on your complexion.


Eczema is a little different, though the same is often also true. Many of those suffering from eczema, some who have gone to extensive lengths to try and cure the problem, find that by simply cutting out dairy, their condition clears up or becomes far more manageable.

As I always say, balance is key. To just eliminate animal products without replacing or supplementing would lead to numerous other health problems. But time and again, we are seeing that a diet based on plants and clean, natural ingredients not only helps to avoid many of our modern medical problems, it is also far healthier and hugely beneficial in so many ways.


So give it a try! I invite you to try my Real Men Eat Plants 30-Day Challenge. Cut out all animal products for just 30 days and see how many benefits you find, from clarity and clear skin to vitality and sexual prowess!


[1] https://www.wcrf.org/dietandcancer/exposures/meat-fish-dairy [2] https://www.compoundchem.com/2015/10/26/carcinogens/ [3] https://www.cancercouncil.com.au/1in3cancers/lifestyle-choices-and-cancer/red-meat-processed-meat-and-cancer/ [4] https://www.rogelcancercenter.org/living-with-cancer/mind-body-side-effects/nutrition/plant-based-diets-why-all-hype [5] https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.118.038813 [6] https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/eating-red-meat-daily-triples-heart-disease-related-chemical [7] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323518#Plant-based-diet [8] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/08/160801093003.htm [9] https://www.pcrm.org/health-topics/alzheimers [10] https://www.insider.com/how-does-being-vegan-affect-sex-drive-2018-7 [11] https://www.healthline.com/health/dairy-and-acne#what-the-research-says [12] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320855#foods-to-eat



Bryan is a 'self-taught' plant-based activist, discovering the benefits of eliminating animal products from his diet over 10 years ago. Since that time, he has advocated not only for a social shift in dietary and environmental awareness but also to reverse the construct that meat consumption is somehow tied to manliness and machismo.

Join our 30-day program and discover how Real Men Eat Plants!


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