Eating Less Meat: What Are the Health Benefits?

Heather Campbell
 min read

Eating less meat has numerous advantages.

Eating Less Meat: What Are the Health Benefits?Defense of animal welfare, preservation of our planet, or mistrust following the various health scandals all seem to be good reasons to reduce meat consumption.

As a general rule, the benefits of eating less meat include reducing disease, inflammation, risk of colon cancer, fiber and omega-3 fatty acid deficiencies, and lowering of bad cholesterol. A vegetarian diet would also reduce the overall risk of cancer and is better for the environment too.

Continue reading for a host of health benefits you can obtain by eating less meat.

Eating less meat: Introduction

It is often recommended to consume no more than 1 pound of meat (excluding poultry) per week and no more than 0.10 pounds of deli meats per day.

Even if meat consumption has been decreasing for several years, it is estimated that one-third of the population still consumes a lot of meat and exceeds these recommendations.

All this can have negative impacts on the well-being of our bodies.

In this article, we will discover the health benefits of sensible meat consumption and some tips on putting it into practice daily.

Why eat less meat?

Sensibly eating meat can reduce several health problems. Indeed, eating less meat allows to:

Reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease

As we know, meat is rich in iron. Therefore, if we consume too much of it, we risk having an excess of iron in the blood.

This iron being pro-oxidant increases oxidative stress, increasing cardiovascular risk by modifying the artery walls.

Reduce the risk of inflammation

The fat in meat contains arachidonic acid, which is pro-inflammatory.

When this acid is found in excess in the body, it will promote inflammatory reactions throughout our body.

Reduce the risk of colon cancer

Red meat is considered “carcinogenic,” and processed meat products “carcinogenic.”

Indeed, the excess of bile acids produced to digest the fats included in red meat can irritate the colon.

To calm the inflammation, our body will produce new cells. If cancer cells are already present in these cells, they will multiply more easily.

Depending on how the meat is cooked, the carcinogenic risk may also be increased. For example, meat is often cooked in a frying pan, on the barbecue, or a la plancha.

However, these cooking methods can generate carcinogenic chemical compounds such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heterocyclic amines.

Even if the role of these chemical compounds in the risk of cancer is not yet fully understood, it is better to vary the cooking methods and avoid browning your meat too much.

Reduce the risk of fiber and omega-3 fatty acid deficiency

Often, the more meat we eat, the less fish and plant-based proteins we consume.

As a result, it can create deficiencies in omega-3 fatty acids and fiber, all nutrients with recognized health benefits.

How to eat less meat?

Here are some tips to help you eat less meat daily:

Plan your weekly menus

If you plan your meals for the week, it will allow you to vary your protein sources.

For example, it is recommended to try to eat a different source of protein each day: beef, poultry, fish, legumes mixed with grains, eggs, etc.

Planning your menus will also allow you to shop accordingly and buy just what you need.

Avoid eating meat twice a day

It is advisable not to eat meat at every meal.

Choose meat for lunch to fill up on protein and be full for the afternoon.

For example, for lunch, choose a good portion of proteins. For dinner, make it softer by eating leftover meat or an egg, some seafood, a slice of ham, or a source of vegetable proteins, like legumes.

Distribute portions evenly on the plate

A complete and balanced meal consists of:

  • A portion of vegetables
  • A portion of starchy foods
  • And one portion of protein (animal or vegetable).

To know how to distribute the different types of nutrients on the plate and not overdo it on the meat, here is a bit of simple advice: always start with vegetables and fill half the plate.

The other half will contain a quarter of starchy foods and a quarter of meat.

Barbecue: vary the foods to grill

Barbecuing can quickly cause meat consumption to skyrocket in a single meal.

If you are a fan of this cooking method, the first thing to know is to limit yourself to one barbecue per day.

For example, if you had a barbecue at lunch, don’t have a barbecue again at night, even if there are leftovers.

Then, when cooking on the barbecue, it is advisable to vary the meats. For example, if you’ve already had a sausage, you might want to cook a piece of chicken instead of a beef skewer at your next barbecue.

And finally, don’t forget that you can also cook seafood and vegetables on your barbecue.

To limit the formation of toxic compounds during cooking, marinate your meats. Indeed, the ingredients that make up marinades are antioxidants.

Favor ground meat dishes

Many dishes contain ground beef, such as lasagna, shepherd’s pie, or stuffed vegetables.

Mixing ground meat with other ingredients such as mashed potatoes, tomato pulp, spices, or vegetable flesh can limit meat consumption.

Cooking ground meat with other foods will create volume while limiting the amount of meat.

What about soy steaks and grain patties

Soy steaks and grain patties can be an excellent alternative to meat if, and only if, they do not contain too much fat.

The benefits of eating less meat

If you’ve decided to stop eating meat, here’s everything you need to know about the consequences it can have on your body.

While eating less meat can bring many health benefits, it can also have negative consequences if the diet is not rebalanced.

Less production of bile acids

It is interesting to note that the liver produces bile acids to digest the fats contained in red meat.

If we eat too much red meat, these acids are produced in excess and can irritate the colon, increasing the risk of colorectal cancer.

By not eating meat, you protect yourself against this risk.

Less inflammatory reactions in the whole body

The fats in meat contain arachidonic acid, which will promote inflammation in the body.

A meat-free diet will decrease the risk of inflammatory reactions throughout the body.

Decreased iron intake

It is well known that red meat is rich in iron. This trace element is essential for the proper functioning of our body but can increase the cardiovascular risk when consumed in excess.

It also promotes oxidative stress, which damages the artery walls. If you cut out red meat from your diet, it will decrease your iron intake and preserve your arteries.

Beware: Iron should not be eliminated from the diet because it is essential to hemoglobin and myoglobin for the transport of oxygen in the cells, but also for the immune system and muscles.

If you decide to stop eating meat, you must find iron elsewhere, for example, dried vegetables.

The quality of iron in dried vegetables is not the same as in red meat, so they must be eaten with foods rich in vitamin C so that the iron is well assimilated by the body.

Increased intake of fiber and healthy fats

If you stop eating meat, you have to find other protein sources. They can be found in:

  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Dairy products
  • Legumes
  • Oilseeds
  • And protein-rich fruits and vegetables.

In addition to their protein content, all these foods provide fiber and good fatty acids to our body: polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega 3 and 6) and monounsaturated fatty acids (omega 9).

Lowering bad cholesterol

Excessive consumption of high-fat meat and cold cuts promotes bad cholesterol. Stopping the use of these products will help to reduce it.

However, it is essential to eat well on the side by favoring fruits and vegetables, legumes, and omega 3. However, you should not rush to eat other fatty foods.

Weight loss

Eliminating meat from your diet can help you lose weight if you adopt good eating habits.

If you stop eating meat, but at the same time you eat too much sugar, starchy foods, and industrial products, your weight will not change much.

On the other hand, replacing meat with vegetable proteins and fish will promote weight loss.

Beware of deficiencies

Eliminating meat from our diet requires some adjustments to achieve a balance. For example, the loss of protein from meat can be compensated for with vegetable protein, fish, eggs, or dairy products.

If this balance is not achieved, the lack of meat can cause deficiencies that are dangerous for health:

  • Iron deficiency will result in anemia, leading to fatigue and the weakening of natural defenses. Besides red meat, iron is found in soybeans, lentils, white beans, oysters, oily fish, and almonds.
  • Protein deficiency. Proteins are necessary for the proper functioning of the muscles and the balance of the sugar level in the blood. A meat-free diet is not a problem if meat proteins are replaced by other protein-rich foods.
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency. This vitamin is central to the proper functioning of the nervous system, the transport of oxygen to the cells, and the proper expression of genes. B12 is only found in animal products, so it is essential to continue eating fish, dairy products, and eggs.

Eating less meat reduces the risk of all cancers

According to some scientific studies, eating meat less than four times a week is associated with lower overall cancer risk.

In fact, following a vegetarian diet would reduce the overall risk of cancer.

These studies found that the overall risk of cancer was 3% lower in people who ate meat four times or less per week than those who ate it more than four times.

The researchers also noted that the risk of colorectal cancer was 10% lower in those who ate meat four or fewer times a week than those who ate meat more than four times.

Impact of heme iron

Scientists pointed out the presence in the meat of heme iron, made up of an atom of iron and proteins, which gives this red color to the meat.

Heme iron is transformed into a toxic compound for our cells during digestion: aldehyde. The latter promotes mutations in the DNA and causes the death of cells in the colon and rectum.

However, studies indicate that it is not a matter of stopping eating red meat altogether but instead of eating it in moderation.

Indeed, the highest levels of alkylation were found only in tumors of patients eating an average of more than 0.33 pounds of red meat per day.

Eating less meat: Conclusion

Limiting meat consumption can be motivated by concern for animal welfare, a desire to lose weight, or to preserve one’s health, since eating meat in excess can be dangerous for our bodies.

Eating meat provides essential nutrients such as iron, zinc, and vitamin B12, all of which are essential for the proper functioning of our bodies.

It is recommended to eat them in moderation and especially to vary the sources of proteins.

For example, you could balance your diet with 40% of proteins of animal origin (such as meat, fish, or eggs) and 60% of proteins of plant origin.

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About Heather Campbell

As a dietitian, my field of specialization is science-based nutritional advice but more importantly, it is my goal to share capturing and inspiring stories, examples and solutions which can help plus-size individuals overcome their specific difficulties. Read More