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Meat-Free Week

Meat Free Week 2016_EatLess

After Sonya Blan’s thoughtful piece on meat a couple of editions ago, we have news that a meat-free or meat-reduced diet might make you happier, as well as healthier (not to mention kinder on animals and the environment). Naturally, we also have some handy info to help you out. 

A major scientific study authored by researchers from the University of Queensland and the University of Warwick (UK) has revealed that eating fruits and vegetables not only reduces the risk of cancer and heart attacks, but also increases happiness levels with each portion consumed.

The release of the study coincides with Meat Free Week (August 1–8, 2016), an awareness and fundraising campaign that motivates action, and is about making the choice to eat less meat, care more and feel good.

“Going meat-free for one week creates a great opportunity to get people thinking about how much meat they eat and the impact consuming too much may have on their health not only physically, but now in light of new research, mentally,” said Claire Annear, Bowel Cancer Australia Community Engagement Manager.

Previous research has shown convincing evidence of increased bowel cancer risk with consumption of red meat (17% increased risk per 100g/day) and processed meat (18% increased risk per 50g/day),” Ms Annear said.

The goal is that during the other 51 weeks of the year, meat-eaters will consider portion sizes when including meat as part of a balanced diet and increase their intake of fruits and vegetables.

“This new study suggests health benefits from eating fruits and vegetables may extend beyond the body to the mind, which makes the Meat Free Week challenge even more compelling,” said Ms Annear.

Meat Free Week 2016_CareMore

The study, soon to be published in the prestigious American Journal of Public Health, followed more than 12,000 people, and found that alterations in fruit and vegetable intake were predictive of later alterations in happiness and satisfaction with life.

The same increase in life satisfaction was observed in people who went from being unemployed to employed, and people who transitioned over a two-year period from a diet of barely any fruit or vegetables to one that included eight portions per day.

Fewer than 10 per cent of Australians meet the current guidelines recommending five serves of vegetables each day and less than half meet the recommendation of two serves of fruit.

“We hope the new research will encourage more Australians to take up the challenge and sign on for Meat Free Week this year,” said Claire of Bowel Cancer Australia.

“Raised on a farm, meat was a staple, and I ate a lot growing up,” said Bowel Cancer Australia Ambassador Stephanie Bansemer-Brown.

“I still enjoy it now in moderation, but have become far more vigilant about how much meat I consume after being diagnosed at 41 with bowel cancer,” said Ms Bansemer-Brown.

“Meat Free Week gives me a chance to re-calibrate my eating choices and make a positive change to my own life while raising funds in support of Bowel Cancer Australia’s great work in helping to save lives. That certainly makes me happy! ” Ms Bansemer-Brown said.

Further details on Meat Free Week, including downloadable resources, recipes and fundraising tips can be found at

Red & processed meat

  • Limit intake of red meat and avoid processed meat.
  • Studies show convincing evidence of increased bowel cancer risk with consumption of red (17% increased risk per 100g/day) and processed meat (18% increased risk per 50g/day).

Healthy tips

  • Consume less than 500g a week of meat, and very little, if any, processed meat.
  • Cook meat carefully. Charred or blackened meats can damage the cells lining the bowel.
  • Partly cook meat inside to reduce cooking times on open flames, grills or BBQs.
  • Keep cooking temperatures low and use marinades to protect meat from burning.

Plant foods as a source of dietary fibre

  • Updated data shows convincing evidence that foods containing dietary fibre protect against bowel cancer (10% decreased risk per 10g/day).
  • Limited evidence suggests non-starchy vegetables (i.e. green, leafy vegetables, broccoli, but not potatoes, etc.) and fruit protect against bowel cancer.

Healthy tips

  • Eat at least five servings (400g) of a variety of non-starchy vegetables and fruits every day.
  • Eat relatively unprocessed cereals (grains) and/or pulses (legumes) with every meal.
  • Limit refined starchy foods.

Photo credits: Meat Free Week. 

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