Did you hear the news?
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that eating 50g of processed meats (about 2 strips of bacon) can increase your risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. The same correlation was found with 100g (3.5 oz) of red meat – less meat than you find at most burger joints. The more you eat, the stronger the correlation.
They put bacon, bologna, ham, and salami in the same category as cigarettes and alcohol: Known Carcinogens.
Now, what do we do with this information? We let it rattle.
I first started learning about the link between nitrates and cancer in culinary school, when our chefs guided us to be discretionary about our use of pink curing salt. My learning exploded when I attended “vegan bootcamp” as the Wellness Club Chef at Whole Foods Market. Newly hired, I started training under the renown medical teach of plant-based educators: Dr. Matt Lederman, Dr. Alona Pulde, and Jeff Novick (RD). They're the team from the documentary, Forks Over Knives. Learning from them rattled my traditional culinary training. In restaurants, I was taught that as long as the bacon was cured in-house and the sausage came from farm-raised pigs, it was wholesome. I fought the data, fighting the medical team with “everything in moderation”, “organic is different”… But I was rattled.
Seeing more and more studies like this kept pounding home the message. As a chef, it became my duty to use this information. I had to let it EMPOWER me to create new recipes, to discover new flavors, to explore a whole world of plant-based cooking that was new to me.
Education can be scary, but it can also be EMPOWERING.
Skeptics will continue to argue for moderation, but we would never let our kids have “just a few cigarettes”.
Some will say their “responsibly raised” meats are healthier, but we would never justify that those Marlboro Lites are healthier.
Some people banish aspartame and MSG like it’s the biggest tumor ever... and then buy their weekly pound of bacon without even thinking twice.
It’s time to think twice. Let this news rattle you a little bit. Let it start the conversation.
Be educated, be empowered. Start the change.
For more in-depth information about the direct link between diet and specific types of cancer, check out the Physician Committee for Responsible Medicine