I know the topic of eating less meat or converting to a vegan/plant based/vegetarian diet has become somewhat “trendy”. We speak about this topic to almost everyone from our family members, friends and strangers during social interactions.
I want to focus on the term flexitarian and why the majority might like to adapt this kind of diet. I am not isolating the vegans and veggies or whatever other category is out there BUT, for some of us we want to incorporate some sort of meat intake in our diet on a balanced scale.
Flexitarian is someone who eats meat occasionally. It’s for someone who doesn’t want to completely cut out meat from their diet but adding more plant food instead. For example, you can be veggie all week and when the weekend comes you allow to have fish, meat or chicken (which is what my husband and I have done). However, you can choose to have meat once a month, once every two weeks. It depends on what you are really trying to achieve.
Before I get into the health benefits of eating meat occasionally, your diet should not be one where you continue to eat processed food with lots of added sugar and salt. The benefits wont be so great and if you are planning to lose weight being a flexi that won’t be beneficial either for you.
We have all heard of the research that showed people who ate red meat are more likely to die from a heart attack, stroke or diabetes. Why? Red meats (pork, lamb and beef) are high in saturated fat. Trans fats and saturated fats can increase your cholesterol and make heart disease worse.
Having a diet where you eat meat (pork, beef, lamb) everyday that is processed, full of fat, with lots of carbs, high fat dairy food (cream, cheese, butter, margarine, lard), palm oil, processed snack foods (crackers, biscuits), fried food. Basically, everything that tastes good lol.
You are supposed to replace saturated fats with mono/poly unsaturated fats which is found in oily fish like salmon, sardines, herring, trout and nuts (nut butter). Meatless meals consist of legumes, vegetables, wholegrains, and fruits, nuts.
Mini Chemistry lesson (back2school): Looking at the chemical structure of saturated fat, it is fully hydrogenated. On every carbon atom there is a hydrogen atom. The molecule is very stable and hard to break up. In our bodies it is more likely to stick to cholesterol as it is difficult to break down because of its long chemical chain of single binding carbon (-C-C-C-C). Enzymes in our body are able to break down these chains in our bodies however, because of the chemical structure of saturated fats binding differently with our body they are harder to break down.
The difference of unsaturated fatty acid is that there is one double bond (=) between two carbons (C=C) this reduces the amount of hydrogen atom bound to a carbon atom. So it is not as filled with hydrogen atoms as a saturated chain. They have kinks in the chain because of the double bond making it easier to break the molecules up for our bodies to digest.
So over time, saturated fats clog our arteries which leads to a poor oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. If you think about it like this, there is limited room for oxygen to flow through our arteries hence the sleepy/lazy/can’t move-won’t move of the sofa/I need a fizzy drink type of feeling to burp this meal off. Eventually, this will lead to a stroke or heart attack.
Back to being flexi: When you reduce your red meat intake to a few times a month, you are helping your body maintain weight, cholesterol levels and blood pressure to name a few.
Positive fact #1: Meatless meals are less expensive, offer a vast variety of health benefits.
Buying leaner cuts of meat or eating more of oily fish will let your body flow with unsaturated fats which is easier to break down in your body.
You are also helping the environment. YES, it’s true. The level of deforestation happening right now in the world to be replaced by farms. Not only that, but the amount of water used to water the crops for animals to eat is unbelievably high. I don’t know if you know this, but the earth is running out of water. FACT: 1,799 gallons of water for one cow, OnE cOw! The carbon footprint of the meat industry is the highest. So, reducing your meat intake will help save the world. LITERALLY!
When it comes to choosing your meat; make sure it’s non-processed, organic from a local farm in your area (they raise animals more humanely, don’t use antibiotics or hormones). As long as its lean cut of meat there will be less saturated fat on the piece of meat. Also, you can give organ meats a try. I will be posting delicious recipes on liver, hooves, testicles, brain….the nutrient content is so high you won’t believe it! AND avoid high heat cooking.
The benefits of eating meat are;
- Great intake of collagen (via bone broth)
- Improve bone density and strength of our bones
- Better iron absorption (meat contains heme-iron (20-30%) which our body absorbs better than non-heme iron from plants (5-15%))
- Naturally rich in proteins, and essential vitamins and minerals (Vitamin B12, B6, Potassium, Zinc, Selenium, Phosphorus Magnesium and more)
What I want to achieve for my family and hopefully for you is a balanced way of living. That we can get the benefits from consuming the right meat every once in a while, and to have a diet that is rich in fibre, omega-3, unsaturated fats etc. The balance is key. For the environment, for our health, our way of living needs a few adjustments to align it back to the way our ancestors lived. Their meat consumption back in the day was not this high. And they lived a healthy lifestyle with a low rate of people being diagnosed with cancer, heart diseases and diabetes. They consumed a lot of legumes and vegetables. When they ate meat it was for a special occasion only.
Let’s be balanced :).