You may have heard that genetics play a major role in the risk and development of cancer, but the research suggests otherwise:
5 to 10 percent of our cancer risk is genetic
25 percent is attributed to tobacco use
4 to 6 percent to alcohol consumption
10 to 20 percent from obesity
10 to 15 percent from pollution, x-rays, cell phones, etc.
And 50 percent of our cancer risk is from diet.
According to the Canadian journal Nutrition and Cancer, total meat consumption is directly related to the development of most every type of cancer.
Q: I'd like my children to eat more of a plant-based diet. How can I help them transition when they're so used to eating animal products?
A: This is exciting! Here are a couple of suggestions:
1. Take advantage of "transitional foods", especially at first. These include soy sausage, mock ground beef, chicken strips, and lunch meat, and mock chicken nuggets and burgers. Although quite processed, these foods can help ease the transition for people who are accustomed to a diet heavy in animal products.
2. Experiment with different non-dairy milks and cheese (like Daiya). If your children taste-test different products and choose their favorites, they'll be more active participants in this transition.
3. For younger children, I recommend reading the book That's Why We Don't Eat Animals by Ruby Roth. Older children might like Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet.
4. Visit farm sanctuaries, which give children an up-close and personal look at animals like those they consume. They'll learn about and observe the personalities of farm animals and hear their compelling stories -- some of these animals escaped from factory farms or fell off trucks on their way to slaughterhouses.
For a sampling of sanctuaries, check out www.farmanimalshelters.org. My favorite sanctuary is Animal Acres, located north of Los Angeles in Acton, CA. It offers an intimate look at a number of animals and helped inspire my children to go vegan.
5. Commit to cooking plant-based meals at home. If your children long for animal products, they can consume these elsewhere. This way, much of their diet will be animal-free. My children understand, in age-appropriate terms, what happens to animals raised for food. They understand that they have plenty of food options that don't involve animals. They know the health benefits of eating vegan and the personal costs of consuming animal products. They eat plant-based meals at home. Still, it's up to them to decide how they wish to eat when they're out in the world. When my children feel they have the freedom to choose, they're more likely to make choices that feel right to them. And most of the time, they opt for vegan foods.