Far be it for your Insider to get all healthy, but as we careen wildly toward resolution day, it’s worth listening to Taylor Schellhardt, a dietitian-nutritionist for Beebe Healthcare, expound the benefits of reducing your meat consumption.
“Across the country, the Meatless Monday campaign has gained momentum as a new way of thinking, shopping, and eating. Meatless Monday was initiated on a global level in 2003 as a campaign intended to help people reduce their meat consumption by 15 percent. The average American consumes 8 ounces of meat each day, which is 45 percent more than the recommendations provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Going meatless once a week may reduce the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. In addition to the many health benefits, going meatless once a week can help reduce our carbon footprint, therefore saving limited resources such as fossil fuel and fresh water. Eliminating meat from meals one day a week may cut weekly spending and curb healthcare spending by reducing certain chronic ailments.
“Vegetables, fruits, and whole grains have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and protect against cardiovascular disease. Evidence suggests that red meat and processed meat consumption may increase the risk of colorectal cancer, while a diet rich in fruits and vegetables decreases the risk of several types of cancers, including mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, and stomach. Additionally, research suggests that you can reduce the risk of Type-2 diabetes by adopting plant-based diets or those lower in red meat. Plant-based diets are richer in fiber, which may help curb obesity. Fiber, not found in animal products, helps with satiety by slowing down digestion and resulting in a more full feeling.
“Livestock animals use more water that is needed to care for vegetables and grains. By going meatless just one day a week, water usage is minimized. Approximately 1,850 gallons of water are needed to produce a single pound of beef, while only 39 gallons are needed to produce a pound of vegetables. A meatless diet could reduce water consumption by up to 58 percent per person. Studies show that meat production produces 30 kg of greenhouse gases per kg of food, while carrots, potatoes, and rice produce 0.42, 0.45, and 1.3 kg of food, respectively. These greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. Reducing meat consumption will also reduce fuel dependence. It takes approximately 25 kilocalories of fossil fuel energy to produce 1 kilocalorie of all meat products, and only 2.2 kilocalories of fossil fuel to produce the same amount of grain-based protein.
“Choosing vegetarian or vegan options also helps save money. Chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes, cause seven out of 10 deaths, and account for 75 percent of the $2 trillion spent on medical care. Additionally, in 2008, the estimated healthcare costs related to obesity were $147 billion. Adopting a more plant-based diet may help us reduce the risk for these conditions. Adding meatless meals to weekly menus can help reduce the costs of a weekly budget. Meatless meals contain more vegetables, beans, and grains, all of which are typically less expensive than meats. Going meatless once a month can help conserve more money for fruits and vegetables.”