Vegetarian food isn’t just for earthy-crunchy-hippie people anymore. People are increasingly recognizing the benefits of having less meat in their diets, with many introducing Meatless Mondays, a weekly foray into vegetarian eating, into their routines. There’s lots of reasons to give up the meat for a day a week – read on for reasons to introduce Meatless Monday (or Tuesday or Wednesday…) into your life.
Live Longer, Feel Better
A vegetarian diet is a superstar when it comes to improving heart health and lowering cholesterol. According to a Harvard University study, cutting out meat, even if it’s just once a week, can reduce your risk of heart disease by up to 19%. Lowering your intake of red and processed meats also reduces your risk for type 2 diabetes, and people who eat little to low meat generally have significantly lower body weight and body mass index. Consuming meat is also linked to higher incidence of colon cancer. Preventing cancer, reducing your risk of heart disease, maintaining a health weight, and lowering your chances of getting diabetes – all sounds like a good reason to lower your meat intake.
It’s important to note that what you replace the meat with matters. You’re not going to get the same benefits if you replace your normal meat consumption with lots of high-fat dairy products or a six-egg omelet. Still, it’s not hard to get your protein in delicious new ways; snack on nuts and nut butters, work in some high fiber beans, and experiment with meat alternatives like tofu, tempeh and seitan for a health-boosting meat-free day.
Give Mother Earth a Hand
Reducing your meat consumption isn’t only good for you, it’s good for the planet. Cutting down on the meat in your diet is a sure way to do your part to prevent global warming- according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, the meat industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than transportation. Meat also requires more water and fuel to produce than vegetarian alternatives. A single pound of beef requires between 1,800 and 2,500 gallons of water, while an equivalent amount of soy tofu only requires 220 pounds of water. As far as energy goes, it takes only 2.2 calories of fossil fuel energy to produce vegetarian protein, as opposed to 40 calories per calorie of US feed lot beef. Want to do your part to reduce fossil fuel dependence? Looking at how you fill your own tank is just as important as how you fill your car’s tank.
Get Out of a Rut
Cutting meat out of your diet once a week means thinking outside the box with your food choices – opening you up to try all kinds of delicious new things. It’s easy to fall into the “meat and three veg” dinner routine. Taking out the meat will shake up your dinner options in exciting new ways. If you’re thinking going meatless means eating nothing but salad one day a week, think again. Thai curries, spicy Indian dishes, and hearty lentil stews and bean-filled chilis are just the beginning. Experiment with meat alternatives and other new ingredients, explore new aisles of your grocery store, and concoct cuisine you never would have otherwise conceived. Meatless Monday means getting creative and trying new things – you may just discover some of your favorite dishes when you’re suddenly forced to think outside the usual box. Happy eating!