Reducing the amount of meat in your diet?
Or moving to a vegetarian diet?
Moving from meat-eater to vegetarian and changing your eating habits takes effort.
You may face resistance from those close to you in the early stages of moving to a plant-based diet. They don’t mean to undermine you. They just don’t get it.
So it may help to be clear on the reasons why others decide to move from meat-eater to vegetarian
There are lots of reasons why people decide to transition to a plant-based diet.
The food we eat is a personal choice.
Deciding to remove meat from your diet, or increase the amount of plant-based foods you eat is entirely up to you.
You may want to reduce the amount of meat in your diet. That’s easy and can be done quickly by replacing several meals each week with some plant-based meals.
Then again, you may have decided that you want to move to an entirely vegetarian, or vegan, diet.
If you’re unsure about transitioning from meat-eater to vegetarian, let me give you some background on the main reasons other people choose this path.
I live in the UK. One of the most popular TV chefs in recent years on UK TV is Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
From his home/farm/restaurant at River Cottage, Hugh brings to life the reality of raising livestock. He also grows vegetables to use in his recipes. Hugh is an advocate of good animal husbandry. He is raising his animals in the best possible conditions. He is also adamant that the end of their lives is a process handled humanely.
That makes Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall a great source of information for me.
In one series, Hugh invited members of the public to his farm to see animals raised for food. Hugh invited them to see the animals killed, but they didn’t have to.
The aim was to educate people on where their food comes from and what constitutes good animal husbandry.
The majority of people involved said they would not eat meat or poultry if they had to kill the animal themselves.
People’s attitude to the types of animal products they eat varies.
For some, the inclusion of dogs, cats, or other domesticated animals in the food chain is unacceptable. Whilst eating farmed animals is fine.
For others, there is no distinction.
Vegan diets exclude all animal-derived products
Vegans don’t include any animal products in their diet. Animal milk and milk products are excluded from vegan diets. The by-products of animal farming, leather goods, for example, are avoided by some.
Differing animal care standards around the world is another reason why many people decide to move away from a meat-based diet.
Food finds its way onto our plates from around the world, resulting in a lack of knowledge about how the animal was raised and butchered.
For more information on building compassion into animal farming for food, see this article on the Compassion in World Farming website.
Many vegetarians have no problem with others choosing to eat meat. But, for an increasing number of people, the idea of animals raised solely for food is unacceptable.
For those people, the decision to move to a plant-based diet is an easy one to make.
To Lower The Risk Of Developing A Range of Diseases
Not for nothing do health professionals tell you to have a healthy diet.
Not an “I’m on a diet” diet, but a healthy eating diet for the whole of your life.
For example; a diet rich in fibre can cut early death risk by a quarter.
That’s right – a quarter.
A review commissioned by the World Health Organisation and published in The Lancet medical journal found that people who get plenty of fibre in their diet cut their early mortality chances by between a quarter and a third.
Taking that fact one step further, you should always consider the potential impact on your long-term health of any form of a restrictive diet.
A diet that reduces your intake of certain foods or groups of foods may help shift excess weight quickly. But it may not be suitable for a whole-of-life healthy diet.
By definition, that must include a vegetarian diet as vegetarians and vegans remove whole food groups from their diet. Let’s take a closer look at how you ensure your vegetarian diet includes all the nutrients your body needs to be healthy.
For more information on why going vegetarian is a great idea for you and the environment, check out The Vegetarian Society website.
The benefits of a vegetarian diet
Lowers the risk of developing life-limiting diseases
Following a meat-free diet has long been thought to have health benefits. Recent studies now support that theory.
“We have just been doing some calculations looking at the question of how much could we reduce mortality, shifting toward a healthy, more plant-based diet, not necessarily totally vegan, and our estimates are, about one-third of early deaths could be prevented”.
A vegetarian diet is considered to be a healthy alternative to one based on animal foods. Vegetarian diets contain less animal fat and cholesterol whilst having more fibre and more antioxidant-rich foods.
Plant-based diets Can help with weight management
The standard American (and UK) diet that is high in saturated fats and processed foods and low in plant-based foods and complex carbohydrates makes us fat and kills us slowly.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and a division of the CDC, the National Center for Health Statistics in the US, 64 per cent of adults and 15 per cent of children aged 6 to 19 are overweight and are at risk of weight-related ailments including heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
A study conducted from 1986 to 1992 by Dean Ornish, MD, president and director of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California, found that overweight people who followed a low-fat, vegetarian diet lost an average of 24 pounds in the first year. And they had kept the weight off 5 years later.
They lost weight without counting calories or carbs and without measuring portions or feeling hungry. (Source Vegetarian Times.)
And one other thing, you’ll find that a vegetarian diet, being rich in plant fibre, will help your gut health. That means, at its most basic, that your gut will push out waste more easily.
A vegetarian diet may ease the effects of the menopause
Advice for women going through menopause includes an increase in the amount of calcium, magnesium and vitamins D and K. That is to help protect them from bone loss when hormone levels drop.
Also, high amounts of phosphorous, found in red meat, processed foods and fizzy drinks, should be avoided. Too much phosphorous in the diet accelerates the loss of minerals such as calcium and magnesium from the bones.
Reducing sodium and protein from animal products can also help the body maintain calcium stores.
Eating foods that are naturally high in magnesium and boron is recommended. These are important minerals for the replacement of bone and thus help reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Apples, pears, grapes, dates. Raisins, legumes and nuts are good sources of boron.
A well balanced vegetarian diet will contain all of these.
Improved energy levels
Your vegetarian diet will include whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables. Because these foods are so high in complex carbohydrates, they supply the body with plenty of energizing fuel.
Feeling less than energised on a diet that contains a high intake of animal products? That could be because of the amount of cholesterol contained in your diet. Cholesterol physically slows you down.
If you enjoyed this introduction to vegetarianism, you’ll want to read these.