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Ask Dr. Gourmet

If all animal protein is bad for you, can eating fish be good for you?

I can't seem to get a straight answer about eating fish. Dr Colin Campbell, in The China Study, says any type of animal protein will cause cancer. Other doctors are saying it prevents cancer. I am confused. I don't eat red meat or poultry, and I do like salmon about twice a week, but I don't want to eat it if it's going to cause cancer.

Dr. Gourmet Says...

We have known for a long time that, planned properly, a vegetarian diet is a healthy diet. There is great evidence that adopting a vegetarian diet may prolong your life. There is good research that eating only plant based foods will prevent many diseases.

I am not one who wishes to adopt a vegetarian diet (and certainly not a vegan diet). While this might be the "perfect diet," it's not for me. There's too much evidence that says a prudent diet that includes some animal protein is a good compromise. Life is not about being perfect - it's about finding moderation.

Like you, I enjoy eating fish. I also have beef and poultry occasionally. I use butter sparingly and I use some other dairy products (mostly processed such as yogurt and cheese). At the same time I eat a lot of fruit, vegetables, legumes and consume alcohol in moderation. I use great quality, delicious vegetable oils. I savor my food and enjoy myself.

I try to avoid processed foods but I do try to point visitors to my web site to those processed foods that might be healthier, better choices and will taste better. I never eat at fast food restaurants and avoid chain eateries (again except to recommend better choices for visitors).

Dr. Campbell's information is not new, nor is he the only one to have performed excellent research into this. The science is well established. I believe it. I lecture to medical students that the research indicates that vegetarians do live longer with less disease.

That said, for me personally the benefit of a great piece of properly-cooked wild salmon far outweighs the benefit of being vegan.

Thanks for writing,

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP
Dr. Gourmet