I felt my world shift a little bit the other day.
Of course, it wasn’t a literal earthquake, but no less unsettling. Well, maybe slightly less unsettling.
A friend casually interjected this piece of information into a conversation. “Oh, haven’t you heard? Some new research out of the WHO (World Health Organization) has basically concluded that bacon causes cancer. “
Did you feel that?
I’m sure the earth just moved.
And sure enough, within days of that earth-shifting revelation, this was the cover of Time Magazine.
Unfortunately for this meat-loving gal, the war on delicious doesn’t actually begin and end with bacon. It encompasses an entire food group!
MEAT! (With the exception of chicken, which somehow has remained unscathed in all of this.)
“The categories of meat in the new study are broad and inclusive. Red meat is defined as “all types of mammalian muscle meat, such as beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse and goat.” At least I can safely say I’ve never eaten horse or mutton (to my knowledge.)
“In a sweeping review released on Oct. 26, the WHO officially identified processed meat as a Group 1 carcinogen, meaning the quality of the evidence firmly links it to cancer.”
Wait, it gets worse.
“Red meats fare little better, falling into Group 2A—foods or substances that probably cause cancer—a category that includes the toxic pesticide DDT, the chemical weapon mustard gas and the insecticide malathion.”
So, in a nutshell, DDT, mustard gas, commercial insecticides and steak all have this in common.
Just pause here for a moment if you just need to spend a bit of time grieving.
So, what does all this mean for a girl with a penchant for fatty Italian salami, who, by the way, already HAS cancer? The article’s author poses the tongue-in-cheek question, “So, are we really talking about life without hot dogs and T-bones?”
I don’t know. I have no answers. The reality is that lots of things are bad for us. There is no way I can trace my cancer back to the one thing that may have been the cause of the first genetic cell mutation.
I live beside a park, where dandelion spraying occurred for many years before our city council banned it.
I grew up in the 70s, which meant that my diet was made up all the helpful food creations of that generation designed to make the lives of mothers everywhere easier. Kraft dinner, Hamburger Helper, boil-in-bag vegetables, processed cheese slices and canned pasta. Yum.
I am of European heritage, which means that meat and potatoes, gravy and butter were my staples. These are the very comfort foods that I still crave today.
And, although I have altered my diet significantly as an adult, and more so since being diagnosed with Leukemia—choosing organic products, all fresh fruits and vegetables, grain fed, hormone free meats, preservative-free breads, and homemade baking over store-bought varieties—I still love the mouth-watering, salty, smoky taste of bacon. I am a carnivore through and through.
The author writes, “There’s a cruel irony to the fact that meat should be as dangerous as health experts warn, because we are hard-wired to love every little thing about it. Predation is not just a nasty indulgence we picked up on our way through the state of nature; it’s a nutritional must-do, or at least it was in our ancestors’ times. Animal muscle is dense with proteins and other nutrients and the fat from a cow or pig will serve the same purpose in our body as it did in its original owner’s: as a repository for calories in the event of food shortage or famine. To make sure we come when the dinner bell clangs, our brains recognize the smell of sizzling meat as singularly irresistible. “
So, basically, this article drags me firmly out of the “ignorance is bliss” category to “can’t hide my head in the sand any longer” category.
I hate that.
But in the spirit of pulling my head out of the sand, I have made some positive changes toward a healthier, non-carcinogenic diet.
A few months ago, a friend gifted me with a new cookbook called Cooking with Foods that Fight Cancer. Written by a pair of doctors (Ph.Ds, not MDs), the first half is chock full of interesting information about cancer cells and how they form and lifestyle factors that have also been linked to cancer. It also breaks down several superfood categories and explains how each does its part to battle the development and maturation of cancer cells. It’s an excellent read!
And because a diet rich in foods with these antioxidant qualities is beneficial to everyone, the second half is full of recipes that use the superfoods listed in the first part of the book. Here’s where I run into problems. Seaweed. Mushrooms. Flaxseed. Cabbage. Garlic. Soy. Probiotics. Nary a slice of bacon to be found anywhere within its pages.
Actually, despite my lament, the complete selection isn’t all bad: tomatoes, berries, citrus fruits, green tea, red wine and dark chocolate round out the list. These I can handle, embrace even.
I use the cookbook and love it. Unfortunately, my children don’t feel the same way and my first effort at hiding lentils in Shepherd’s pie was unsuccessful.
They also refuse to try my smoothies, which are chock full of berries, greek yogurt, kale and ground flax and hemp seed, for no other reason than they know what’s in it.
In light off all this newly acquired knowledge, I confess I have wondered what seaweed would taste like fried in bacon fat? Would that be a good compromise to ease the transition?
Oh, there is just so much here that I don’t know what to do with yet. I’m really not a fan of seaweed.
I’m moving slowly, but not backwards. Just putting one foot in front of the other…