Eating your greens never used to be cool - that is, until a surge of vegans and vegetarians swooped through our food spots with their plant-based deliciousness, showing us that we can, in fact, enjoy meals without meat. But is there merit to choosing a mushroom burger over its beefy alternative?
The answer is yes. Lowering your intake of meat can have significant health and environmental benefits. From reducing your risk of chronic illnesses like heart disease and cancer to taking an ethical stance to support animal welfare efforts, eating more veggies and less animal products is a great cause for your health and the planet. In this article, we explore the plant-based diet so you can decide for yourself whether it's worth the plunge.
What is a 'plant-based' diet?
A plant-based diet includes both veganism and vegetarianism. Vegans choose to omit all animal products from their diet (including dairy, eggs, gelatine and even honey) whereas vegetarians only steer clear of meat.
Why eat less meat?
Different people choose to follow a plant-based diet for different reasons, including ethics, the environment and religion. Health and wellbeing is also a factor in many people's choice to switch from the animal to the plant kingdom. Here are a few health benefits of plant-based diets:
- Plant-based diets are lower in cholesterol, which can decrease the risk of obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
- Red and processed meat has been linked to higher risks of contracting cancer, heart disease and early death because of high its levels of sodium and saturated fat.
- Plant-based diets are great for your bowel movements and your gut because of their high fibre content.
Want to have your steak and eat it too?
If the thought of going completely plant-based is a bit daunting, you can breathe easy. Being mindful of the quality of the meat you do choose to eat, including more veggies in your diet and exercising can put you on a path to great health too. The point is simply to lessen your intake of meat. Here are some easy tips to follow:
- Eat a few servings of meat a week as opposed to a few servings of meat a day - try to aim for no more than 500 grams a week.
- Keep your serving sizes in mind - a good amount to go for is about a palm-sized amount of healthy, lean meat.
- Choose leaner, white meats instead of red, fattier meats - think chicken, turkey and fish next time you're about to cook up a storm.
- Replace meat with filling alternatives like beans or tofu (or you can even mix the two! Think chilli con carne with a bit of lean beef and some extra mushrooms and black beans).
*We always recommend a balanced diet in line with your nutritionist's advice, so make sure you consult an expert before embarking on any drastic dietary changes.