The Answer Behind My 13% Rule

By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness

September 12, 2014

  • Why you should limit meat to 13% of your diet
  • Charring and grilling poses serious health risks
  • This is your gut on an animal-based diet

In a recent issue of Advanced Natural Wellness, I talked about the dangers of eating processed meats.

Well, I’ve received a flood of responses to that article. And almost all of them are asking the same thing… “If it’s only the processed meats that are bad for us and we avoid them, then why do we have to limit regular meat to 13% of our diet?”

This is a great question, and one that I hear quite often from my patients.

When it comes to commercial meats, the immediate answer is simple. Commercially raised meats come with a hefty dose of antibiotics, hormones, genetically modified corn from animal feed, and other health horrors you don’t want anywhere near your dinner plate.

That’s why I always recommend choosing grass-fed, pastured and organic meats and poultry.

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But even when you choose these healthier forms of meat, problems can arise if you eat too much of them. Part of it has to do with the way you cook them… and part of it has to do with the way they alter the immune response in your gut.

Let me explain…

If you could choose any type of meat, cooked any way you like, what would it be?

When I ask my patients that question, the overwhelming response is a steak, chop or ribs that have been char-grilled or broiled.

This is a problem, because cooking meat at high temperatures causes the release of substances that come with some serious health risks.

One of those substances is called advanced glycation products (AGEs). These are damaged molecules and sugars that bind to your cells.

AGEs are strongly linked to arterial stiffness and plaque build-up that are common in heart disease. They’re also associated with diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, muscle-wasting and cataracts. This may partly be due to the fact that they raise levels of C-reactive protein, which is a key marker for inflammation.

Grilling and cooking meat at high temperatures also releases heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Both of these compounds increase the risk of colon, pancreatic, breast and prostate cancer.

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The higher the temperature, the longer the cooking time, and the more charring and grilling involved, the more of these chemicals will be released.

Now, if you can enjoy your meat without the charring, there are a few ways you can reduce your exposure to these substances. Steaming meats at low heat can really cut the risk. Braising them in liquid or simmering them in a sauce can also help. I like using a slow cooker or roasting at low temperatures.

And, here’s a little trick that’s common in the Mediterranean and Asian diets. These cultures marinate meat in acidic ingredients like lemon or vinegar. This helps cut down on the formation of AGEs, PAHs and HCAs during the cooking of meat.

While you have some control over the cooking method of your meat, there’s not much you can do about what happens when it hits your gut.

The foods you eat have a great deal of control over the types of bacteria living in your digestive system. Some foods produce types of bacteria that are good for you. Others? Not so much.

Eating too much meat upsets this delicate balance of bacteria in your gut. And today we’re learning this imbalance has a very big role when it comes to inflammatory factors, heart disease, diabetes, stroke – even obesity. People who have these conditions have very different gut flora than those without them.

In just a single day, an animal-based diet can cause the bacteria linked to inflammatory bowel disease to flourish. In four days, it increases the type of about 21 other types of bacteria. And not all of them are good for you.

A plant-based diet has effects that occur just as rapidly. But there’s a big difference. The diets high in fruits and vegetables – but low in meat – are associated with a highly diverse microbiota that’s good for your health.

So, go ahead and enjoy a juicy steak, tasty lamb chop, or half of a rack of baby-back ribs – about 13% of the time, and from grass-fed livestock.

The other 87% of the time, load up on your fruits and veggies. The more variety you include, the healthier your gut will be… and the healthier you will be.

Luevano-Contreras C, et al. “Dietary Advanced Glycation End Products and Aging.” Nutrients. 2010 December; 2(12): 1247–1265.

Zheng W, et al. “Well-done meat intake, heterocyclic amine exposure, and cancer risk.” Nutr Cancer. 2009;61(4):437-46.

Kinross JM, et al. “Gut microbiome-host interactions in health and disease.” Genome Med. 2011 Mar 4;3(3):14.

Larsen N, et al. “Gut Microbiota in Human Adults with Type 2 Diabetes Differs from Non-Diabetic Adults.” PLoS One. 2010; 5(2): e9085.

“Changes in the gut bacteria protect against stroke.” University of Gothenburg The Sahlgrenska Academy. Nov 5, 2012.

Kallus SJ, et al. “The intestinal microbiota and obesity.” J Clin Gastroenterol. 2012 Jan;46(1):16-24.

David LA, et al. “Diet rapidly and reproducibly alters the human gut microbiome.” Nature. 2014 Jan 23;505(7484):559-63.

Jeffery IB, et al. “Diet-Microbiota Interactions and Their Implications for Healthy Living” Nutrients. Jan 2013; 5(1):234-252.

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