Are there any health benefits of eating less meat? Our addiction to meat has grown to disproportionate levels. You only have to go back to the middle of the last century to see that at that time we only indulged in eating meat occasionally. Since then, consuming meat on a daily basis has become the norm, bringing a host of associated health issues.
Switching to a flexitarian diet is an easy and manageable way to improve your health. Making a conscious effort to add more meat-free days during the week will help you cut down on the total amount of meat consumed. You can replace it with some wholesome plant-based protein sources, which also happen to be excellent sources of diverse vitamins, fibre, minerals and antioxidants while being low in fat.
How much protein do you need?
Meat is a good source of protein which is a crucial nutrient for cell growth and repair. While it is essential we include proteins as part of a balanced diet, we often get enough as we need less than we tend to think. On average, men should eat 55g and women 45g of protein daily, which is about 2 palm-sized portions of meat, fish, tofu, nuts or pulses.
6 Health Benefits of Eating Less Meat
- Cancer: back in 2015, the WHO (World Health Organisation) linked high consumption of processed meat (such as bacon, ham and sausages) and red meat (beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse and goat) to certain types of cancers. For example, their experts concluded that a 50 gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.
- Cholesterol & Heart Disease: red meat is high in saturated fats which can increase cholesterol and the risk of developing coronary heart disease.
- Type 2 Diabetes: studies have suggested that eating too much red meat is associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, while by comparison plant protein could protect against it.
- Weight Management: meat (especially red meat) can be high in fats which make it easier to put weight on, whereas eating more low fat and high fibre food such as vegetables, beans and pulses will keep you fuller for longer and facilitate weight management.
- Antibiotics: we are what we eat. High levels of antibiotics are routinely used in industrial meat production as growth supplements. When we consume meat we inadvertently ingest these antibiotics. Overuse of antibiotics is linked to the spread of superbugs.
- Better Digestion: meat contains none of the fibre that is needed for digestion and gut health. In contrast vegetables, beans and lentils are an excellent source of dietary fibre, benefiting our digestion and microbiome.
Time to rethink your diet? A varied plant-based diet including pulses, tofu, beans, seeds, nuts and whole grains with the occasional addition of higher welfare meat can provide all our protein needs while being beneficial to your health and the planet. You can also swap meat for one of these meat substitutes. Read my guide Eat Less Meat in 8 Easy Steps and choose to go flexitarian. You will not regret it!