You probably know by now that eating meat is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, certain cancers like breast, prostate, and colon cancer, as well as a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. But if you’re like most young, healthy, active people who look and feel fine now, you’re likely thinking: “That’s all the way down the road.” You’d be wrong.
Guess what? Eating meat has an immediate impact on your daily health, right now, today.
There are several surprising ways eating meat influences your health on a daily basis, whether it’s by causing dark circles under your eyes, contributing to bloating, creating bad breath and body odor, or pimples, a diet high in red meat even gives you a higher chance of getting bitten by mosquitoes! (And they carry blood-borne pathogens that are dangerous).
So whether you are trying to clear up your skin or get a better night’s sleep, or not have people take a step back when you start speaking close to their face, you need to think about ditching red meat and avoiding dairy for the sake of your wellbeing right now, today. Bad mood? Low energy? Have a hard time going to the bathroom? It may be caused by your meat consumption.
Eating meat increases inflammation in the body, as athletes know
As most athletes know, recovering from a tough workout or a nagging injury means lowering inflammation on a cellular level. Inflammation is also tied to most lifestyle diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, or diabetes. But those diseases take years or decades to fully show up.
A meal of red meat has a direct and immediate effect on your body even in the hours after eating it. Fatty foods like red meat and dairy impact your blood lipids and blood flow and the ability of your cells to get all the important oxygen and fuel they need, to recover, repair and function optimally, whether you’re playing tennis, or even just performing in bed. For all the reasons not to eat meat, and how it negatively impacts your health today, read what the latest research tells us.
9 Surprising Reasons to Ditch Meat for the Sake of Your Health Today
You may want to quit meat for health reasons that affect you right now. Here are nine surprising reasons that you may want to ditch the meat and get all the protein you need from the same place animals do: Plants. Eat legumes, such as beans and chickpeas, or load up on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds, all of which contain protein, including complete proteins that provide the nine essential amino acids that your body needs to build muscle and function optimally.
1. Eating Meat Causes Dark Circles Under Your Eyes
One sign that your body is not digesting meat well: dark circles, according to experts. While partly genetic, the propensity for dark undereye skin can also be a sign that your body is not digesting meat well (or you are not eating enough fiber foods like fruits and vegetables).
Why this happens
Eating meat can slow down digestion, allowing more toxins to leave the intestines and enter the bloodstream. Your body, in trying to rid these, works overtime to rid itself of these toxins, and dark circles can be a result.
Cut out meat and see if the dark circles improve. This is because the animal products (without the addition of high-fiber foods) can get stuck in your intestines and cause your gut lining to become compromised, allowing toxins “to pass through the gut wall” and into the bloodstream where they are regarded as “foreign” invaders, according to a medical paper by experts at the Geelong Medical Health Center.
“The body will try to produce antibodies to eliminate the foreign substance, and the reaction to this can be dark circles under the eyes, a symptom which is usually overlooked by health professionals.” Skip the meat and see if your dark circles disappear.
Foods to fight dark circles
Eat more high-fiber foods full of important vitamins, such as fruit and vegetables. Another cause of dark circles: Vitamin deficiencies, including vitamin B12, vitamin E, vitamin K and vitamin D. which have all been associated with dark circles.
Being deficient in these essential vitamins can cause a lack of clotting or healthy collagen-building that supports the capillaries and healthy blood flow to and from the delicate skin under your eyes. If you think you are not getting enough B12 or vitamin D, take a supplement.
2. Eating Meat Leads to Inflammation, Which Makes Acne Worse
Inflammation makes acne worse. When you eat dairy, meat, or high-glycemic foods full of simple sugar, or junk foods full of chemicals, you are driving up inflammation in the body. In a recent study published in Science Direct, a brief vegan diet led to a reduction in inflammation.
Why this happens
Inflammation is a precursor to almost every major chronic disease because it hinders blood flow to the cells, slowing down the healthy exchange of oxygen and fuel, and returning waste to the body’s filters (liver, kidneys).
The skin is a filter as well, and as the largest organ, when the tiny capillaries don’t get healthy circulation, those waste products build-up, causing sebum, bacteria, and infected pores. You see acne. Your skin just sees stress – from not getting” clean” from the inside out, in layers too deep for you to be able to wash off.
In contrast, a high amount of fiber and vegetables reduced their CRP (C-reactive protein) levels, which improves not only inflammation but everything else that gets affected by it. That includes acne, blood flow, performance, energy level, mood, and eventually your risk for heart disease.
Foods that Fight Acne
When you change your diet to help clear up your skin, the first thing is to give up sugar. Throw out the chips and packaged processed foods of all kinds. Next ditch dairy, meat, and other foods that cause inflammation.
Load up on vegetables and legumes, especially high-fiber foods like leafy greens and beans. Eat the 20 Best High Fiber Foods on repeat, including chickpeas, and add in citrus fruits, walnuts, and avocado. Try to eat as many of the top 10 anti-inflammatory foods as possible for the best clear skin diet.
3. Eating Meat Creates Bacteria That Causes Bad Breath
You don’t need to be an expert to know that a high-protein diet can lead to bad breath, and even a diet high in meat and animal product like cheese makes the body produce a strong aroma of ammonia as the bacteria in your mouth try to break down the animal product.
Think of your mouth as a little habitat for 700 different types of bacteria, and your saliva as the waves that wash it away. The bacteria in your mouth feed off of the protein in meat and as they break it down, release ammonia compounds that cause bad breath.
While saliva helps wash this all away if you eat more protein than your body needs at the moment the result is that the ammonia smell shows up in your breath, urine and sweat, so meat makes you stink.
Foods that fight bad breath
Parsely and mint can mask the bad breath odor temporarily, but for a more lasting breath fix foods that are high in zinc such as spinach, asparagus, tofu, green beans, and chickpeas can help neutralize the bacteria. Zinc can help control the build-up of plaque that contributes to bad breath, according to New York-based endodontist Adam S. Harwood, DMD.
4. Eating Meat Can Lead to Constipation
A high-fat diet, especially the saturated fat in red meat, pork, lamb, poultry, and dairy products, can slow down digestion in the body and cause your intestines to have to work harder to move the waste product out of the colon.
The result can be chronic and painful constipation. Studies have also found a correlation between red meat, chronic constipation, and a higher risk of colon cancer.
Being constipated can happen if you are dehydrated, or when you don’t eat enough fiber. Only 1 in 10 Americans get the recommended 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, so a diet high in full-fat dairy and red meat can lead to constipation, according to research.
Foods to Fight Constipation:
Eat a diet high in fiber, which acts as the scrubbing and cleaning agent in your intestines. And since fiber is only found in plant-based foods, that means focusing on building your meals, not around meat but around plant-based foods like legumes, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and nuts and seeds.
Try to eat red meat only in conservative amounts (100-200g just twice a week) with lots of vegetables or grains. Try to avoid eating liver and kidneys. Switch to seafood or chicken, and choose boiled meat over fried.
5. Eating Meat Darkens Your Mood
The gut-brain connection is strong, and foods that help build a diverse, healthy microbiome (the billions of bacteria in the gut that help your body digest the foods you eat) also help your brain function optimally, both in terms of boosting focus and improving mood, according to Dr. Neal Barnard, founder of the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine.
Why this happens
There is an entire chain reaction between the gut microbiota and your serotonin system in the brain that is connected to your diet. Eat junk and you feel like junk.
Eating inflammatory foods like red meat and high-fat foods containing saturated fat can leave you feeling sluggish, which includes your brain (it’s not like you have a separate bloodstream, so what goes into your body goes directly into your brain as well).
Feeling down? Try cutting out meat and focus on eating meals full of vegetables and legumes, whole grains and nuts and seeds, and see what happens. One study found that people who ate less meat suffered less depression and that those who ate plant-based diets reduced the risk of depression by 26 percent, according to Barnard. Some studies suggest that eating a morning meal of plant protein may help keep your mood stable throughout the day.
Foods to Improve Your Mood:
People who eat more fruits and veggies, staples in a plant-only diet, experience improved mental well-being, according to a study in Social Science & Medicine.
It’s key to eat a variety of plant foods but studies show that folate deficiency may actually contribute to depression, so focus on adding foods that are rich in folate, like asparagus, spinach, broccoli, beans, chickpeas, lentils, and peas.
6. Eating Meat Makes It Harder to Lose Weight
In a review study of the most effective diets for weight loss among overweight adults, a vegan or vegetarian diet has been proven to be the most effective in losing weight quickly and keeping it off.
That last part – keep it off – is key since for many years the keto diet (high fat and protein, low carbs) had a reputation for helping people shed pounds quickly. But keto is not healthy or sustainable, which is why this new study on the power of a plant-based diet to help people lose weight and shed fat for good was so encouraging.
Why this happens
By switching to a plant-based diet, defined as “mainly characterized by the elimination of all types of meat, including fish … [and] other animal products like eggs and dairy” overweight individuals take in more fiber foods “such as grains, legumes, root vegetables, green vegetables, fruits, nuts, and mushrooms.”
After reviewing dozens of studies, the authors concluded that a shift to a plant-based diet (low in fat) may have beneficial health effects on body weight and BMI among individuals who are overweight, have type 2 diabetes, and or have cardiovascular risk or disease or are suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.
“The weight reduction can be explained by an increased intake of fiber, polyunsaturated fats, and plant proteins,” the authors concluded, as well as a reduction of saturated fats and animal proteins.
Foods to Promote Weight Loss
High-fiber foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds all help you burn fat and lose weight naturally. Legumes are especially key to burning fat.
Even if you don’t go fully plant-based, eat more legumes to lose belly fat. A recent study found that people who eat more plant-based foods, and especially more legumes, lost more belly fat than dieters who did not eat as many plant-based foods. Legumes seemed to be the supercharger when it came to burning off unwanted belly fat.
By building a meal plan around plant-based foods it’s possible to eat fewer calories and still feel full. To start losing, try The Beet’s Plant-Based Diet, a 14-Day plan created by a registered dietician. Sign up to get four recipes and an expert tip every day and lose weight naturally.
7. Meat-eaters take more time to recover from workouts
Athletes will use any tool in the kit to get an edge, including recovery strategies and diet. When the top tennis player or NBA star tells people they switched to a plant-based diet to lower inflammation and help them recover from workouts, and tough games, and heal injuries faster, it gets attention. No fewer than 20 top athletes at the highest levels of their sport have come out as partly or fully following a plant-based diet, including Tom Brady who is continuing to play at age 45.
Why this happens
Inflammation is the culprit again. In this case, the muscles get torn up and broken down during strength feats (lifting included) or endurance contests, and to rebuild faster they need the bloodstream to clear out the lactic acid and other waste and bring oxygen, protein, and fuel to build back better. That means that Tom Brady, and others, rely on plant-based proteins such as pea protein, rice protein, and a blend in recovery smoothies that deliver up to 34 grams of protein in one fell swoop.
Foods to Promote Recovery and lower inflammation
Because plant-based foods have antioxidants, your body can heal and recover from a hard session faster on a plant-based diet rich in vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains (and low in animal products like meat and dairy.) The first thing an athlete will feel when they go plant-based is painful inflammation leaving the body, so whether you need to recover from an injury or a brutal session, switch to a plant-based diet to reach the rest of your goals.
8. Eating meat is a hindrance to your sex life
Meat impacts circulation, which includes how things go in bed, or to be a little more direct about it: the quality and quantity of erections.
Why this happens
In the hours after eating meat, your blood lipids rise and your blood flow constricts. If you watched The Game Changers, the documentary about how meat impacts athletic performance (and going meat-free or vegan boosts performance), collegiate athletes who ate meat had different blood consistency – thick with fatty lipids – than those who ate a meal without meat in it. This not only contributes to their inflammation and recovery times on the field or track – but also the very personal performance of what happened in bed, between the sheets.
Foods that help blood flow
The key to how to fight this is to eat foods that are high in nitrates, which your body converts to nitric oxide. Vegetables high in nitric oxide help your circulation by changing the quality of the cells lining your blood vessels and making them smooth like Teflon rather than sticky like velcro.
The NO in vegetables and fruits helps blood flow through the body by smoothing out and opening up the arteries and blood vessels, which allows important oxygen and fuel to get to your extremities and capillaries more easily. That means better vision, better skin, and yes, better erections.
Foods that are the highest NO converters include kale, Swiss chard, arugula, spinach, spirulina, bok choy, beets, cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi, carrots, and broccoli. An insider tip from Bryan? Add lemon juice to cooked greens and salads to aid the conversion to NO.
9. Meat eaters are more attractive to mosquitoes
Protein in the diet causes skin odors that attract mosquitoes to us since it shows them we are humans. Beer also does this, as do pregnancy and some other genetic conditions.
Why this happens
In a study on what attracts mosquitoes to humans, it is clear that some odors increase our attractiveness to mosquitoes and others decrease it. Our body odor and skin microbiota, genetics, and potentially diet all can make us more attractive to the blood-suckers. “The importance of each of these factors will be greater or lesser, depending on the environment, availability of vertebrates and species of mosquito,” the authors found.
Diet and especially our propensity to eat meat and dairy, or high levels of protein, let mosquitoes know that we are humans, and we are easier to get blood from than other mammals that are covered in fur. Our skin odors, such as ammonia make us the mosquito’s favorite target. Other factors like genetics and pregnancy also can make us more susceptible to mosquitoes, including whether our immune system is actively fighting off disease.
How to be less attractive to mosquitoes:
Avoid cheese, meat, and beer at the next picnic or BBQ. Instead eat foods high in thiamine, such as beans, lentils, and tomatoes, since thiamine, also known as vitamin B1, acts as a natural mosquito repellent once it’s excreted by the skin since it helps to mask the natural human odors that are attractive to insects.
Other foods known to help keep mosquitoes away are banana, garlic, onion, apple cider vinegar, and grapefruit, which all contain compounds that make your skin smell less attractive to the little blood-thirsty pests.
How long before you see results once you give up meat? Almost immediately
It doesn’t take long for your body to begin to feel better when you switch to a plant-based diet or give up more meat and dairy. In fact, in just a few weeks your blood cholesterol will go down, your energy will improve and you should see those dark circles disappear, your mood improves and even your sex life starts to get better.
So the next time you’re at a beach picnic and your friend is getting eaten by the bugs while you enjoy a chill time next to the fire, tell them to skip the meat and dairy, or just try eating more veggies.
Bottom Line: Meat Raises Risk of Disease & Causes Immediate Health Problems
Don’t wait to give up meat and dairy, and go all or partly plant-based for the sake of your health. The long-term effects of eating a diet high in meat are known to be an increased risk of heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, high blood pressure, and stroke. But the daily toll it takes on the body is also harmful, including the way the health of your skin, muscles, and mood impacts your quality of life, right now, today! Go plant-based and see how fast you feel better. Within days you will begin to look and feel your optimal best.
For more great health and fitness content, check out The Beet’s Health & Nutrition articles.