Benefits of eating less meat

How reducing your meat intake – and eating more vegetables and fruits– can benefit your health.

A plant-based diet, filled with a variety of fruits and vegetables, grains, beans, legumes and nuts, is rich in fibre, vitamins and other important nutrients.

While meat is an excellent source of protein and vitamins, many of us eat more of it than we really need. In fact, Australians are ranked in the top three biggest meat eaters per capita in the world. The average Australian will consume 111.5 kg of meat each year, while the world average is 41.9 kg.

What this means is that a lot of us are consuming more calories, saturated fat and cholesterol than is optimal. Many studies have suggested that eating less meat can promote better health, reducing our risk of disease and encouraging a long lifespan.

Here are some of the benefits you may experience from adopting a more “flexitarian” approach to eating:

Weight loss and reduced obesity risk

Research has suggested a link between weight gain and consumption of meat, particularly processed meats such as sausages and ham. A five-year study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in 2013, for example, found that people who don’t eat meat have a lower average BMI than meat-eaters, and that vegans have a significantly lower obesity rate.

Better heart health

Meat is high in saturated fat, which raises the level of cholesterol in your blood, making you more vulnerable to heart disease. A Harvard University study found that reducing meat and adding more foods rich in polyunsaturated fat (such as vegetable oils, nuts and seeds) could lower your risk of heart disease by 19 per cent. Fibre also helps reduce cholesterol levels, so filling up on more vegetables, fruits and wholegrains has additional benefit.

Lower blood pressure

It has long been noted that vegetarians and vegans have lower blood pressure than meat-eaters, possibly due to their lower average weight and higher intakes of fruits and vegetables. As far back as in the 1920s, nutritionists found that a vegetarian diet could reduce a person’s blood pressure in as little as two weeks. It is thought that reducing saturated fats and sodium from meat lowers the blood’s viscosity (thickness), which in turn brings down blood pressure.

Reduced diabetes risk

High consumption of red and processed meat has been linked to the increased risk of type 2 diabetes. A Harvard University study, for example, found that increasing meat consumption by half a serving or more each day was linked to a 48 per cent increase of risk – and that cutting back reduced the risk by 14 per cent. This is likely due to a combination of factors, including the levels of saturated fat and cholesterol in red meat, as well as the impact of meat on the metabolic system. Replacing some of your normal meat intake with legumes and vegetables is a good way to work towards higher intakes of fibre and lower intakes of fat.

Reduced risk of some cancers

Bowel Cancer Australia says there is convincing evidence linking the consumption of red meat and the risk of bowel cancer, and suggests limiting your meat intake to 500 grams per week. Processed meats, including bacon, sausage, cold cuts, ham, bologna, salami, pepperoni, devon, luncheon meat, corned beef and hot dogs also compound the risk. Studies also suggest there may be a connection between eating large amounts of meat and other types of cancer, including breast, prostate and pancreatic cancers. In addition, there is much research to suggest that a diet high in fruits and vegetables may reduce cancer risk.

24-30 March 2014 is Meat Free Week. For more information about the benefits of cutting back on your meat intake, visit meatfreeweek.org

 

 

Recommended reading - Refreshing summer recipes

Recipes

Fresh prawn, shaved zucchini, avocado, fennel, basil and hazelnut salad recipe

Dreamy, warm weather eating – this salad from The Bucket List is sweet and delightful.

Read more
Recipes

Cucumber, lime and mint agua fresca recipe

Blend up a super light and refreshing summer beverage.

Read more
Recipes

Spanish chargrilled capsicum salad recipe

Authentic and fresh, perfect served on toasted bread.

Read more
Recipes

Tomato and herb quinoa salad recipe

A fresh and simple salad, full of fragrant herbs.

Read more
Recipes

Easy banana ice cream recipe

You won't believe how simple it is to whip up this sweet, refreshing treat.

Read more
Recipes

Snow pea, snap pea and feta salad recipe

Crisp green peas add a colourful flourish to this classic combination.

Read more
Recipes

Edamame soba noodles and crispy sesame tofu recipe

A fresh, quick and deliciously light dish by Michelle Bridges.

Read more
Recipes

Piña colada popsicles recipe

Dream of a tropical island with these sweet, coconutty treats.

Read more
Recipes

Green Smoothie Recipe

Get your green fix with this refreshing smoothie, the perfect way to energise your day

Read more
Recipes

Spicy pork tacos with pineapple salsa recipe

Fresh, light and juicy, these tacos are full of deliciously unique flavour.

Read more
Recipes

Watermelon smoothie recipe

Refreshing and sweet, this easy-to-whip-up smoothie is a delicious treat.

Read more
Recipes

Nutrition bowl with beetroot hummus and guacamole recipe

Boost your energy at any time of the day with a fresh, healthy and wholesome nutrition bowl.

Read more
Recipes

Pomegranate and lime iced tea recipe

Refresh your mind and body with this sweet and zesty herbal infusion.

Read more
Recipes

Corn fritters with tangy tomato salsa recipe

These cajun-flavoured corn fritters with tomato salsa will freshen up your weeknight routine.

Read more
Recipes

Sweet potato rice paper rolls recipe

Try this delicious combination of vegies parcelled in rice paper rolls.

Read more
Recipes

Vermicelli noodle salad with Thai chilli dressing recipe

A zesty salad, full of fresh greens and Southeast Asian inspired flavours.

Read more
Recipes

Feta and pea shoot omelette recipe

A pocket full of green spring goodness, with a touch of crumbly feta.

Read more
Recipes

Green and gold salad recipe

Delicious salad of asparagus, gold beetroot, crispy sage and lemon brown butter.

Read more
Recipes

Parmesan vegetable fries recipe

Michelle Bridges shows us a simple way to whip up light, irresistible homemade chips.

Read more
Recipes

Macadamia and honey frozen yoghurt sundae recipe

A simple, sweet dessert with the goodness of fresh fruit and a satisfying nutty crunch.

Read more
Recipes

Chicken sliders with paprika potato wedges recipe

Brighten up your evening with a fun, flavour-packed feast the whole family will love.

Read more
Recipes

Tomato, pumpkin and beetroot frittata recipe

Love vegies? Try a tomato, pumpkin and beetroot frittata for a delicious and visually-tempting meal.

Read more
Recipes

Guacamole chicken wrap recipe

This deliciously healthy wrap is the perfect way to brighten up your lunchtime.

Read more
Recipes

Cherry quinoa salad with lamb recipe

Cherries are one superfruit you don't want to miss out on. Here's a delicious take on a lamb salad.

Read more
Recipes

Moroccan chicken skewers with yoghurt dressing recipe

Succulent and flavoursome, this chicken recipe by wholefoods cook Nadia Felsch is a delicious treat

Read more
Recipes

Green breakfast bowl recipe

Start the day out right with the goodness of eggs, greens and halloumi.

Read more
Recipes

Pecan, buckwheat, coconut and date granola recipe

Superfoods ahoy! This refreshing, crunchy blend is one sure way to get your morning fired up

Read more
Recipes

Apricot chia bliss balls recipe

Delicious little balls of summer goodness.

Read more

For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are instructions on how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.