Fried Vegetables

8 Great Reasons to Try Going Meatless

If you’ve been to one of the big fast-food chains lately, you’ve probably seen options for meatless or “imitation meat” hamburgers, tacos, sandwiches, and even meatballs – and you’ve probably wondered how it tastes, and if this new trend is really worth it.

Opinions vary about how much products like Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger actually taste like the real thing, but we can tell you that going meatless is good for your health and the planet. Learn more about all the benefits you can get by cutting down on meat, even if it’s only a few meals a week.

1. Improve Your Health

Cutting Vegetables

Simply reducing the amount of meat you eat has so many benefits to your health. According to the National Institutes of Health, eating red meat increases your risks for heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and certain cancers, and may even take years off your life. And, if you’re eating less meat and replacing it with healthy fats, fresh seasonal produce, and whole grains, you get even more health-boosting benefits.

2. Helps Protect Our Environment

Hands Holding the World

The farming of animals required to produce meat uses a lot of precious resources, especially water, feed, and land – it takes 450 gallons of water to produce a quarter-pound of beef, and the amount of grain used to feed U.S. livestock animals every year could feed 800 million people. Millions of gallons of pesticides and fertilizers that give off greenhouse gases are used for commercial livestock. Even the United Nations notes that the farming and eating of meat contributes to climate change (global warming).

3. Meat Substitutes Have Come a Long Way

Meat Substitutes

In recent years, plant-based meat alternatives, such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, have made a huge splash in the market, with both vegetarians and meat-eaters. Both products were created to be more like “real” meat, in terms of taste, texture, aroma, appearance, and juiciness – they’re even plump and pink on the inside when you cook them. Some people love them and think they taste almost identical to meat; others think that, even if the flavor isn’t identical to meat, it’s still delicious and worth eating once or twice a week to benefit their health and the environment.

4. So Many Tasty Options

Almond Cream with Spoon

You don’t need a meat substitute to get your protein and other nutrients. Other ways to go meatless include:

  • Nut butter (peanut butter or almond butter)
  • Legumes
  • Tofu or tempeh
  • Rice and beans (eaten together, they form a complete protein)
  • Quinoa
  • Whey protein shakes
  • Traditional soy- and plant-based veggie patties and products

There are so many high-protein options that even if you’re doing a keto program, you can still plan a few meatless meals.

5. Because Animals

Young Woman Feeding Cows

Most commercially farmed animals (like the kind that end up in fast-food hamburgers and chicken nuggets, and the fresh meat at the supermarket) have short and terrible lives before they are killed. Even products labeled “free-range” or “farm-raised” don’t always guarantee that the animals are treated humanely, and these products are still quite expensive. And at the end of it all, these animals are killed (usually in inhumane ways) for consumption. If you truly love animals, the best way to protect them is to eat fewer of them. It doesn’t mean you need to be a vegetarian or vegan, but every little bit makes a difference.

6. It’s Great for Weight Loss

Steping on a Scale

One of the biggest benefits of eating less meat is that you’re likely to drop a few pounds, too. Compared to fresh produce and grains, meat is dense in calories. If you’re cooking your own meatless meals, you may be more likely to eat a whole-food diet, and less likely to use processed ingredients that are higher in calories. And chances are good that if you’re not eating that hamburger, you won’t be having the French fries or sugary soda that goes with it.

7. It Could Help You Look Younger

Woman Looking Herself in The Mirror

Meats, especially red meats and highly processed lunchmeats, can fire up inflammation in your body, which can lead to less collagen and elastin in your skin. These are two proteins in your body that help make your skin supple, moist, and resilient. Over time, too much inflammation in your body can cause your skin to appear dry and wrinkled.

8. Even a Little Bit Makes a Difference

Healthy Grill

You don’t have to turn completely vegetarian or vegan to reap the benefits: Just think about doing a “Meatless Monday” or replacing a couple of meals a week, and you’ll start seeing a difference. Even skipping just half a serving of meat and replacing it with one of the protein-packed options in #4 above can cut your risk for developing Type 2 diabetes.

You may even save some money, too!

Experts agree that most people get more than enough protein in their diets, so an occasional meatless meal is totally safe. In fact, most people don’t get enough fiber, and could benefit from incorporating more veggie options in their diet. But if you’ve ever been told you are iron-deficient or have anemia, you may want to talk to your doctor first.

If you’re healthy and looking for ways to feel even better, keep checking the AltaMed Health and Wellness page. You’ll find all the news you need to know to stay safe, get in shape, and take care of both your mind and body.

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Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent Fasting: How Alternating Between Eating and Fasting Can Help You Shed Pounds and Improve Your Health

Want to drop a few pounds but the keto diet seems too extreme for you? Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that involves cycling between periods of fasting and non-fasting so you can shred the weight. It’s also good for your body and healing various health ailments, particularly those caused by inflammation.

But How Does It Work?

When we eat, our body releases insulin to help cells turn glucose from our food into energy. If the glucose isn’t used immediately, it gets pushed to our fat cells. When we’re fasting, the body breaks down those fat cells for energy, which may lead to weight loss.

Sounds Great. How Do I Get Started?

There’s no right way to do it. Based on your medical history and current health, you should research a few methods to find the one your body responds best to. Check out these techniques below, try them out, and see what works for you.

The 12:12 Method: This one is simple. Eat for 12 hours, fast for 12 hours, observe the results. A good strategy for 12:12 is to stop eating after dinner and then eat breakfast again 12 hours later.

The 16:8 Method: This is the most popular method that often yields the fastest results. Build up to 16 hours of fasting each day with an eight-hour window to eat. Work a 9 to 5? Align your eating schedule with your workday to help keep your routine consistent.

The 5:2 Method: For this method, dieters consume their standard amount of food five days a week while significantly cutting back on calories for two days a week. During the two fasting days, men generally consume 600 calories while women consume 500.

The 24-hour Method: This method involves one total fast, all day for one day a week. For this method, people often fast from breakfast to breakfast or lunch to lunch. Test out both techniques and stick with one.

Will It Improve My Health?

In addition to weight loss, intermittent fasting can have numerous positive effects on the body. Research shows that intermittent fasting can:

  • Improve brain health
  • Kickstart important cell repair processes
  • Lower your risk of Type 2 diabetes
  • Possibly protect against Alzheimer’s disease
  • Possibly prevent cancer
  • Reduce inflammation, which protects against aging and disease
  • Reduce the risk factor for heart disease

What Should I Eat?

Variety of Fruits and Vegetables

While there are no strict rules around eating while (not) fasting, some foods will help you see results faster. Eat meals with fiber and whole grains, like fresh fruit and oatmeal to keep your blood sugar in check and your insulin levels low. Eating high-fiber, high-protein meals will help keep you full longer. Drinking plenty of water and unsweetened, caffeinated beverages such as plain green tea or black coffee can also help suppress cravings during your fasting window.

Are There Any Downsides?

Woman Drinking Water

Since you’re not eating, you’ve likely cut down on drinking, so intermittent fasters may struggle with dehydration. Make sure you drink plenty of water throughout the day, even during your fasting periods, and other fluids once you’ve broken your fast. Intermittent fasting can also lead to constipation so load up on high-fiber snacks or meals such as fruits or fiber-rich cereals to aid your digestion.

Is Intermittent Fasting for Everyone?

Alarm Clock on a Dish

Not quite. Intermittent fasting can be risky for people with certain medical conditions. People with Type 2 Diabetes, who are pregnant, people attempting to conceive, and those who are lactating shouldn’t fast for extended periods of time.

Those who are at risk of becoming dizzy or faint (the elderly, people with low blood pressure) should proceed with caution. Children should never be put on a fasting regimen. In addition, people who struggle with an eating disorder, whether that is anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating, should avoid all methods of the diet.

If you take prescription medications, fasting can also make it harder to comply with your prescription or interfere with how certain medications work, so make sure to check with your doctor first.

As long as you proceed with caution and ensure you are an appropriate candidate for the diet, you could expect fast and favorable results. No matter what kind of eating plan you decide on, you’ll get better results if you also stick to an exercise routine. If you’re looking for fitness ideas that don’t require a gym, try any one of these outdoor activities that are so much fun, you won’t even realize you’re exercising!

Keto Diet

The 10 FAQs You Have to Read Before Trying the Keto Diet

Maybe you’ve heard about it from celebrities or social media influencers, or you’ve seen the label ‘keto-friendly’ on foods at the supermarket. Given that it’s been one of the most popular diets for a few years now, you may even know someone who’s tried going keto. But how much do you really know about the keto diet?

You’ve probably got questions, ranging from “What is it?” to “Is it hard?” to “Will it work for me?” We’ve got your answers right here.

First of all, what does ‘keto’ even mean?

Keto Word Spelled with Vegetables

Keto is short for ketogenic. It refers to the process of ketosis, which is when your body runs out of carbohydrates and then has to start burning your fat for energy.

So, what is the ketogenic diet?

The ketogenic diet is similar to trendy, low-carb diets like paleo and Atkins: you eat more proteins and fats but keep your carbohydrates lower. Instead of following strict guidelines about what exact foods and portions, you aim to eat a certain amount of protein and fat and no more than 50 grams of carbs a day. That’s the equivalent of two slices of bread and a small apple.

What do you eat, then?

Ketogenic Diet Chart

Unlike diets you may have tried in the past, keto encourages full-fat dairy products and meats. Keto-friendly foods include:

  • Fatty cuts of meats, skin-on poultry, seafood, and eggs (including the yolks)
  • Low-carbohydrate vegetables such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, and spinach
  • Nuts like almonds, walnuts, and cashews; also pumpkin seeds
  • Full-fat dairy products like cheese, milk, and yogurt
  • Healthy oils
  • Avocados

You’ll have to sacrifice most breads and sweets. You’ll also have to cut way, way, WAY down on healthy items like legumes (beans and lentils) and fruits.

How much weight can I lose?

No one can predict how much weight you will lose – there have been reports that some people lose as much as 10 pounds in two weeks. But those results aren’t typical, and the loss was probably primarily water weight.

Rapid weight loss is one of the reasons keto diets are so popular. Scientific studies have even shown that, compared to other diets, keto will help people drop more weight, faster. However, over long periods of time, the overall weight loss was the same for keto-eaters as it was for people on traditional low-fat diets.

What are the benefits of keto eating?

Woman Measuring Her Waist

One of the main reasons why so many people have taken it up is to lose weight, but that’s far from the only benefit.

Following a keto plan has been shown to help dieters reduce abdominal fat, which is closely linked to high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. The keto diet may also reduce other risks for heart disease, including your cholesterol and triglycerides levels. Some people may experience improved gut health, which could result in less acne, reduced inflammation, and improved mental outlook.

If I try keto, will I be hungry all the time?

Two Women Eating Healthy

Another reason why the keto diet is so popular: it’s been shown to suppress the appetite, which can lead to greater weight loss.

Can I eat a keto diet if I exercise or am very active?

It depends on how intense your cardio program is. A recent study showed that certain athletes, like marathoners or long-distance cyclists, performed better after adopting a keto diet, but those whose exercise involves short, intense bursts of effort performed more poorly.

If you’re working toward a big goal, like doing a breast cancer awareness 10K, make sure your body is well-adjusted to the diet before your event.

Is there anyone who shouldn’t try the keto diet?

Yes. That list includes:

  • Pregnant women
  • Breastfeeding women
  • Those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or other digestive problems
  • Anyone who’s previously suffered an eating disorder (anorexia nervosa, bulimia, binge eating)
  • Anyone with kidney issues, Chronic Kidney Disease, or diabetes

Even though the keto diet may help prevent diabetes, those who have diabetes or hypoglycemia should avoid keto and other eating plans that could affect their insulin levels.

Does it have any drawbacks or side effects?

From a practical standpoint, two of the most common complaints about going keto are that it’s hard to follow and it’s expensive. However, there’s an extensive list of health reasons why you might think twice about keto.

Besides the fact that it’s unsuitable for the people listed above, many people who try keto report feeling terrible for a few weeks as their bodies adjust to this new style of eating. In fact, the symptoms, such as headache, fatigue, nausea, and constipation, are so common that there’s a name for it: the keto flu.

Other side effects range from the mild and annoying – many beginners develop bad breath and constipation – to more serious problems, such as disruption of the menstrual cycle, severe dehydration, kidney stones, the loss of muscle, and even higher cholesterol levels, and increased risk for heart disease.

That sounds awful! Should I talk to my doctor before I try it?

Diabetic Healthy Diet

We recommend consulting your doctor before making any serious lifestyle changes. They may have other ideas for how you can healthfully lose weight. AltaMed has a variety of healthy lifestyle programs designed to help participants reduce their risk for, or control their diabetes, and maintain a healthy weight. Ask your AltaMed doctor for a recommendation.

If you’re not sure if keto is right for you but you want to eat healthier, try some of these delicious, nutritious ideas, such as low-calorie ways to lighten up traditional recipes and why it’s good to eat all the colors of the rainbow!

8 Great Reasons to Try Going Meatless