So, why would you want to stop eating meat?
It’s a time- honored tradition here in North America. What’s summer without a barbecue, or pizza without pepperoni?
In this part of the world, only a small percentage of our population would forgo eating meat for religious reasons, so chances are that won’t be your answer.
However, if you have any regard for animal welfare and you take a look at how factory farming is practiced, you might be convinced to go veggie.
Even if that image doesn’t deter you, maybe the environmental cost of a diet hefty in meat might make you think again. Growing plants versus animals takes less space, less feed, less water and reduces runoff pollution and greenhouse gasses.
A quick Google search of scientific studies relating to the issues will back these claims up.
Then there are the health claims. Again, a quick look through clinical and statistical studies will point out these benefits:
Reduced incidence of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and strokes, and some indications of reduced risk of some cancers.
Now who doesn’t want to be healthier? It’s kind of a no-brainer.
Whatever your reasons may be, it’s important to look at your whole diet to keep you healthy, not just one piece of it.
You will still have all kinds of problems if you eat tons of junk food but avoid meat.
When we decided to make the switch to a meat free diet we kept it simple. We just did our best to stick to foods that are as lightly processed as we can. We eat lots of fruits and veggies, beans & lentils, some soy, and whole grains. We do eat free-range eggs from a local farm, but we do so sparingly, just a few a week. We also eat a bit of dairy, some cheese & yogurt, but again, not much. I personally am trying to cut the dairy out altogether, and eventually I’ll get there.
Now, let’s take a look at nutrition in a vegan or vegetarian diet.
There are some nutrients that are absent or lacking in these diets, such as:
B12 (nerve cell function, red blood cell formation, DNA synthesis)– If you eat eggs & dairy you’re probably getting enough of this vitamin. If not most plant based milks and breakfast cereals are fortified with it. If you not getting enough, a vitamin pill may be in order.
Protein (builds and repairs muscles and bones) – Eat beans, lentils, soy (tempeh, tofu, edamame)
Calcium (bones, teeth, muscles, nerve function)-Again, if you eat dairy & eggs you’re probably getting enough already, if not, the legumes listed in the protein section above also contain this mineral, particularly soy. Green veggies, like spinach, bok choy, turnip, mustard & collard greens also have some, although it’s not as easily absorbed in the body. Many plant based milks are fortified with calcium also.
Iron (oxygenates blood & muscle) Legumes again, as well as nuts & seeds are great. In particular pumpkin, sesame, hemp & flaxseeds. Leafy greens are winners here too. Dried or concentrated tomato, such as sundried or paste also contain this mineral.
Vitamin D (brain development, heart function and immunity & mental health) – Those of us who live in sun soaked areas only need to go outside and soak up some the rays. For the rest of us, we’ll find this vitamin in fortified orange juice & plant based milks, as well as fortified cereal. If you’re not getting an adequate supply, a vitamin D3 pill will do the trick, especially in dark & cold winters.
Omega 3 (helps prevent heart disease and stroke, may play a role in cancer prevention and cognitive function) – Flax, hemp and chia seeds, walnuts, cruciferous vegetables.
So it’s all down to you, but don’t worry that you’ll be missing any nutrients if you decide to cut out the animal products, with a little checking you’ll get everything you need!