The idea of going vegan or even vegetarian can be scary to some, or even unfathomable. Meat is such a large part of most people’s diet and culture that the idea of giving it up altogether is too frightening to even take the first step.
While we know there are significant health benefits to meat consumption (positive protein intake, reduced appetite, increased metabolic action, etc), the health and environmental consequences of too much meat are largely unknown to most Americans.
The ramifications of a high meat diet are certainly substantial, but cutting meat out entirely may not be completely necessary for all people. Just lowering your consumption to one day a week can significantly lower your risk of many diseases and your carbon footprint!
Read on to find out why switching to meat-free Mondays may be the key to unlocking the door to better wellness for you and your family.
Lower Risk of Disease
Recent studies have shown that an excess of meat in the diet (that’s anything over 4oz a day) usually results in an increased probability of contracting heart disease, diabetes, and high cholesterol. To put the problem into perspective, most Americans currently consume over 4 pounds of meat per week—more than double the recommended amount.
Studies also show that just lowering your consumption by just one day a week can significantly lower your risk of strokes and even prevent some cancers. Because you won’t be focusing on meat, you’ll be more likely to focus on things like fruits and veggies which are high in fiber and other nutrients helpful for combatting cardiovascular disease and specifically colorectal cancer.
Weight management is a common concern for many Americans, and cutting meat can certainly aid in that. Statistically, vegetarians have much lower rates of obesity and on the whole, regularly consume fewer calories. Eating greens rich in fiber like spinach, green peas, and broccoli have been proven to aid in weight-loss and are excellent tools for bulking up meals while keeping calorie-content low! Leafy greens also aid in reducing inflammation and can speed up your metabolism, helping you burn more calories, faster.
We all want to eat well, but sometimes healthier food is more of a burden on your wallet, right? In many cases, fresh fruits and veggies can be pricer than processed and sugary snacks, but the unexpected grocery that makes your bill truly skyrocket is meat. Meat production is far more costly than most produce and subsequently, the price on the grocery shelves reflects that. This rule also applies to eating out; just take a look at the menu the next time you go to a restaurant. A veggie burger will always be cheaper (not to mention, healthier) than that premium ground beef special your waiter is suggesting. In fact, studies even show that on average, vegetarians can save a minimum of $750 per year just by cutting meat costs.
Help the Environment
We’re only as well as the planet we inhabit, and living a truly healthy lifestyle starts with minimizing our carbon footprints and maximizing positive changes in the climate. The environmental impacts of meat production are staggering. Animal agriculture is responsible for severe increases in fossil fuel pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and mass deforestation that lead to huge climate consequences. Resources used to farm, butcher, and sell meat can be significantly reduced and reallocated where they’re really needed. According to the Meatless Monday campaign page, it takes approximately 425 gallons of water to produce just 1 quarter-pound burger (enough water for 1,700 people or 10 bathtubs). Extensive research tells us that if everyone went vegetarian for one day (say, Monday?) we would lessen greenhouse gas emissions by about 1.2 million tons of CO2.
Improve Your Nutrition
It’s a proven fact that the majority of Americans aren’t consuming the necessary amount of fruits and veggies. In fact, most people eat less than a cup of fruit and about 1 ½ cups of veggies per day while the recommended amount is 2 cups of fruit and 2 ½ of veggies/day. Fresh produce options contain vital minerals and nutrients our bodies require to survive and thrive. Not only do they fight against unwanted disease, but they actively promote balanced nutrition and if planned properly, can provide all the protein we require in a day. Vegetables and meat replacements are also low in saturated fats, an element plaguing most red meats.
We all want to be the healthiest, fittest, best versions of ourselves possible, but we need to enjoy our lives too! Many people choose not to cut out meat simply because they like the taste too much, thinking that all a vegetarian diet consists of is raw carrots and tofu (both of which I do love, by the way).
Committing to one day of vegetarianism doesn’t have to be a sacrifice for your tastebuds; seasonal fruit and vegetable options can be some of the most delicious ingredients you’ll find at the grocery store and the search for meat alternatives will teach you so much more about your palette than sticking to your comfortable meat-heavy diet ever could.
So whether your meatless day is a Monday or a Sunday, don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and continue to be the best advocate for your health and environment possible! Eating the rainbow is a delicious and nutritious way to get the most bang for your buck, gut, and planet.