Ask Dr. Julie / Diet and Weight Loss / Health & Wellness / Healthy Eating

Thinking of Making the Switch to Vegetarianism? Try Meatless Monday

Making the switch to vegetarianism isn’t something many people can commit to do, at least not overnight. But when it comes to eating meat-free, studies are now showing the benefits of abstaining from animal byproducts.

Many argue that even a small effort to cut out meat goes a long way. Researchers at John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health agree: Back in 2003, they popularized the concept of “Meatless Monday,” an idea that practices eating meat-free at least once a week.

Not only is a conscious effort to eat 15% less meat per week beneficial to your body and the planet, but it also familiarizes people with vegetarian food that’s not only delicious but also nutritionally rich in vitamins and nutrients. Abstaining from animal products once a week is an easy and accessible way to maintain a healthier lifestyle, all while expanding your palette for plant-based foods. Here are five reasons why you should consider going meat-free once a week:

1) It Helps Keep You Trim: Going meatless even one day a week can put you on the right path to losing weight. Vegetarian diets are rich in fiber and proteins. Legumes, grains, tofu and vegetables are both filling and satisfying options that can be incorporated into all meals. Additionally, the fiber and protein found in these foods keep you full for longer, resulting in less overeating. In fact, studies across the United States and Europe have both concluded that vegetarians have lower body weight and body mass index (BMI) overall as compared to meat eaters. (1, 2, 3)

2) It Fights Heart Disease & Diabetes: Fresh fruits and vegetables have long been associated with decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. One study found that getting the recommended seven or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day was linked to a 4% decrease in coronary artery disease and a 5% lower risk of stroke. (4) Eating vegetarian also decreases your risk of diabetes: Incorporating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains in your diet leaves less room for simple sugars, processed foods and processed meats that often have high sugar and fat content.

3) It Reduces Your Carbon Footprint: Did you know that one pound of ground beef takes over 1,850 gallons of water to produce? (5) Between the water that’s needed to feed the livestock to the resources needed to transport them, animal products have a much larger carbon footprint than plant-based ones. By going meat-free just one day a week, you’re making a significant contribution to saving precious resources like fresh water and fossil fuels. Livestock is also responsible for the rising levels of methane gas and carbon dioxide, both of which are huge contributors to global warming. By opting for Meatless Monday, you can contribute to significant greenhouse gas reduction.

4) It Provides Essential Nutrients: Fresh fruits and vegetables are by far the most nutritionally dense foods you can find. Not only are these fresh foods protein and fiber rich, they also supply essential vitamins like zinc, iron, magnesium, folate, Vitamin C and Vitamin A, just to name a few. One 100 gram serving of kale, for example, contains double the recommended daily amount (RDA) for Vitamin C, triple the RDA for Vitamin A and ten times the RDA for Vitamin K.

5) It Gives You More Bang For Your Buck: Produce, legumes and grains are much less expensive in comparison to animal protein and byproducts like eggs, milk and cheese. In the produce department, look for seasonal fruits and veggies that are on sale and favor those; sometimes organic produce that’s in season is cheaper than conventional produce. For example, stock up on leafy greens like kale and Swiss chard in the winter months when they’re readily available and take advantage of fresh fruit like grapes and peaches in the summer. You can also purchase dried beans and grains in bulk, which are cheaper alternatives with a long shelf life. Quinoa, wild rice, millet and garbanzo beans, for example, are usually sold by weight at most health food stores.

References:

  1. “Diet and body mass index in 38,000 EPI-Oxford meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans.” International Journal of Obesity.
  2. “Popular Diets: Correlation to Health, Nutrition, and Obesity.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
  3. “Adherence to the Mediterranean Diet is Associated with Lower Abdominal Adiposity in European Men and Women.” Journal of Nutrition.
  4. “Fruit and vegetable consumption and risk of coronary heart disease: a meta-analysis of cohort studies.” Journal of Nutrition
  5. “Fruit and vegetable consumption and risk of stroke: a meta-analysis of cohort studies.” Neurology.
  6. http://waterfootprint.org/media/downloads/Report-48-WaterFootprint-AnimalProducts-Vol1.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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