Worry not- nobody is suggesting that you give up meat and dairy products outright!  The decision to adopt a vegan or vegetarian diet is a personal choice, and one that you should certainly discuss with your physician or registered dietitian.

There are, however, serious cases to be made for reducing your meat (especially red meat) intake. In honour of World Vegan Month, we would like you to take some time to think about your diet- your colon may thank you!

On meat consumption: According to one American study, scientists may have discovered which biological mechanisms are behind the already established link between colorectal cancer and diets high in red or processed meat.  The suggested culprits?  Three compounds: heme iron (iron found in red blood cells), nitrate/nitrite (preservatives), and heterocyclic amines (compounds created when food is cooked at high temperatures). [SOURCE: Fung, Teresa, et al., Low Carbohydrate diets and all-cause and cause-specific mortality two cohort studies. Annals of Internal Medicine. September 7, 2010, 153 (5)]

When it comes to dairy consumption, some research suggests that it may have a protective benefit due to its calcium content. In one study, researchers found that the risk of colorectal cancer was approximately 20% lower in men who consumed the most calcium than in men who consumed the least. The risk was about 30% lower in women who consumed the most calcium than in women who consumed the least. Colorectal cancer risk was also lower in men or women who ate the most dairy foods. [SOURCE: Park, Y, et al., Dairy food, calcium, and risk of cancer in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2009, Volume 169, Issue 4, Pages 391-401]

If you’re toying with the idea of occasionally working vegan or vegetarian principles into your lifestyle, we suggest reading up on the various nutrients that may be of concern. Canadian Living Magazine has a good, unbiased article that you may wish to start from.  In addition to your conversation with your doctor, you may also wish to consult a registered dietitian.