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To Meat or Not to Meat

posted Oct 20, 2017, 1:50 PM by Tracy Ducker, MS, RDN   [ updated Oct 31, 2017, 6:21 AM ]
More and more Americans are switching to meatless meals, in fact according The Vegetarian Resource Group in a 2016 poll, about 7.5 million Americans are either vegetarian or vegan. In our last blog we talked about the difference between vegetarianism and veganism and this week we will discuss the benefits of eating more meatless meals. Eating a vegetarian or vegan diet is a personal choice, but even if you incorporate more meatless meals each week you can still reap many of the benefits.

There have been many studies on the health benefits of not eating meat.

+ Heart Health- one study showed that vegetarians/vegans were 25% less likely to die from heart disease. Some adults with heart disease have actually reversed some of the damage to the heart and blood vessels by switching to a vegan diet. Their blood pressure and cholesterol levels decreased and some were even able to stop taking medication.

+ Cancer – Many of the studies have been inconsistent with cancer risk between vegetarians and non-vegetarians with the exception of colon cancer. Those who avoid red meat have less carcinogenic substances in their colon, therefore reducing their risk of colon cancer. It is well known that eating a lot of fruits and vegetables decreases cancer risk and being vegetarian or vegan makes it a lot easier to eat the recommended amount of fruits and veggies.

+ Type 2 diabetes – Eating a vegetarian diet along with exercise can reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes. The high fiber and low fat foods help those with diabetes better control their blood sugars.

+ Leaner- most vegetarians and vegans are leaner than their meat eating counterparts.

Those who do not eat meat need to plan their meals to ensure adequate nutrients, especially vitamin B12, iron and calcium (for vegans). Many plant based foods contain calcium, like dark green leafy vegetables, fortified non dairy milk beverages, and fortified orange juice. Iron rich foods include dark green vegetables, whole grains, and beans. For B12, a supplement is recommended as plant based foods do not contain a bioavailable source, although some cereals are fortified it usually isn’t enough to meet the recommended amount. So with a little planning you can make healthy and tasty vegetarian or vegan meals the whole family will love. Check out some of our great vegetarian and vegan recipes on our recipe page. For additional information on meal planning check out Forks Over Knives.