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
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. It Helps Protect Our Environment
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
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
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)
- Tofu or tempeh
- Rice and beans (eaten together, they form a complete protein)
- 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
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
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
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
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.