If you have been working hard to cut out processed foods and start eating organically and/or locally grown foods, does that mean you can still eat meat? The answer is…sometimes. According to Michael Pollan:
There are literally scores of studies demonstrating that a diet rich in vegetables and fruits reduces the risk of dying from all the Western diseases. In countries where people eat a pound or more of fruits and vegetables a day, the rate of cancer is half what it is in the United States. We also know that vegetarians are less susceptible to most of the Western diseases, and as a consequence live longer than the rest of us.
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So becoming a vegetarian doesn’t exactly fit into your lifestyle? Not to worry, because you can still reap the same health benefits as a vegetarian if you, as Thomas Jefferson once said, treat meat as a “condiment for the vegetables.” If you cut back to less than one serving of meat per day you can consider yourself a “flexitarian” with a risk of heart disease and cancer that is equally as low as a vegetarian.
Think about it like this – the less meat you consume the more of something else you will eat instead, and hopefully that will be veggies and fruit. And “by eating a plant-based diet you will likely consume fewer calories (which is itself protective against many chronic diseases).” Easy enough, right?
It is also important to consider the following when thinking about the optimal way to fit meat into your diet:
- “The more meat there is in your diet – red meat especially – the greater your risk of heart disease and cancer.”
- Ideally, you should purchase meat from a local source (check your farmers’ market), and if that is not possible go with organic.
- “You are what you eat eats too…some of our food animals, such as cows and sheep, are ruminants that evolved to eat grass; if they eat too many seeds they become sick, which is why grain-fed cattle have to be given antibiotics." So in the case of red meat look for beef from cattle that have been 100% grass-fed.
We have been trying to eat more like “flexitarians” ourselves and have found it easiest to just think of meat as a side dish, topping or flavor contributor rather than a main course. It was a difficult transition at first, but we know the health benefits are more than worth it in making this our "new normal".