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White Rice versus Brown Rice and Red Meat versus Vegetarian
Red Meat and White Rice May Lower Life Expectancy

Brown rice or white rice?
Brown rice or white rice?

The decisions you make every day have consequences. Small choices that seem insignificant at the time, have ripple effects throughout our lives. The problem most people have is recognizing those moments when they occur. I'm going to tell you about two things that seem almost trivial, but make the wrong choice and it could cost you your life.

First question: Which do you choose, white or brown rice? If you look them up nutritionally, there's not a lot of difference. A cup of medium grain white rice has 242 calories and about half a gram of fiber. A cup of medium grain brown rice has 218 calories and 3.5 grams of fiber.

They seem pretty similar. But their effects on your body are polar opposites. People who ate five or more servings of white rice a week, increased their risk of type 2 diabetes by 17%. However, the simple act of replacing that white rice with brown rice, reduced their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 16%.

Here's why it happens. When white rice is refined and milled, it loses most of its fiber, vitamins and minerals. That makes the white rice easier to digest, which increases blood sugar more rapidly. Whatever calories our bodies can't use quickly for energy, is stored as fat. So when we eat white rice, we're taking in something that's been stripped of healthy vitamins and minerals, that's designed to be digested quickly and stored as fat.

On the other hand, brown rice has the opposite effect. Every bite gives us healthy vitamins and minerals. Plus the extra fiber slows down digestion, so it takes us much longer to process the calories. Instead of a sudden rush, the calories are fed to us over a longer period, allowing us to burn more of them off and store less as fat.

The studies scientists drew that data from were huge. They included 39,765 men and 157,463 women that were followed from 14 to 22 years. After adjusting for things like age, weight, family history and other dietary habits, the results were clear. If everybody replaced white rice with brown rice, the risk of type 2 diabetes would go down by 16%.

So that's your first simple choice. Every time you buy, cook or order rice, make it brown.

Red Meat or Processed Meat

Second question: How much red meat and processed meat is OK to eat each day? (Processed meat is any meat that's been cured, smoked or salted to improve flavor like ham or salami.)

The best way to answer that question, is to look at a segment of the population that eats relatively little or no red meat. So researchers turned to men and women who belonged to the Seventh-day Adventist faith. It turns out, approximately 50% of Seventh-day Adventists are vegetarians. A large portion of the rest eat very little red or processed meat.

Researchers tracked the diets of about 96,000 Seventh-day Adventist men and women in the United States and Canada. Over the course of the eleven-year study, about 7,900 individuals died. The scientists found that the people who ate red meat, even the equivalent of just two small meatballs a day, reduced their life expectancy by almost 20%.

That's certainly a surprising finding, but it doesn't mean you have to stop eating all meat. In the United Kingdom researchers wanted to compare the effects of red meat, poultry, fish or vegetarian diets on the development of cancer in the colon.

32,147 women were recruited for the study in England, Wales and Scotland. They were tracked by researchers for an average of 17 years. At the conclusion of the study, the red meat and processed meat eaters experienced higher rates of colon cancer than the ones eating primary poultry and seafood. Several studies suggest that as many as 1 in 5 bowel cancers in the United Kingdom can be linked to the eating of red or processed meats.

So that brings me to your second simple choice. If you eat a lot of red or processed meats, look for alternatives. Try out more chicken, fish or vegetarian options.

Fast-food chains like Burger King are experimenting with the vegetarian “Impossible Burger” on the Whopper. You can buy vegetarian “burger patties” and “plant sausage” from Beyond Meat. In the freezer section of your supermarket can find vegetarian Chik'n Nuggets and Original (vegetarian) Sausage Patties from Morning Star Farms. The meat-free company Gardein sells Mini Crispy Crabless Cakes and Classic Meatless Meatballs that look and taste amazing.

You don't have to go crazy. Choose one healthy thing and concentrate on making that change for a month. Once it becomes a habit, choose another healthy thing and spend a month focusing on that. Over time, all those little changes add up to a longer, healthier life.

UPDATE 10/1/2019

You may have heard that an "International Collaboration or Researchers" recently said eating red meat will NOT harm your health. The study was called, "Unprocessed Red Meat and Processed Meat Consumption: Dietary Guideline Recommendations From the Nutritional Recommendations (NutriRECS) Consortium."

Well, that's not entirely accurate. That international collaboration of researchers concluded that negative effects of eating too much meat was only seen in large population studies. They said that there is risk, but it's small enough people shouldn't worry about it.

Here's my problem with their statement. 1 in 5 bowel cancers in the United Kingdom were directly linked to eating red and processed meats. In the Seventh Day Adventist study, the red meat eaters increased their risk of mortality by 20%. Those researchers may think increasing the risk of death by 20% isn't significant, but I certainly do!

The American Cancer Society agrees with me. Marjorie McCullough, a senior scientific director of the group said this.

“It is important to recognize that this group reviewed the evidence and found the same risk from red and processed meat as have other experts,” she said in a statement. “So they’re not saying meat is less risky; they’re saying the risk that everyone agrees on is acceptable for individuals.”

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Updated 10/1/2019