Monday, 17 September 2012

Not missing out

I'm not a vegetarian but I don't generally eat meat.
This stance often confuses people, they assume people who don't eat meat do so on ethical grounds or because they don't like the taste of it, whereas I avoid it for health reasons.

I do have ethical objections as well and as a result was vegetarian as a student for six months, but that went out the window when I became anaemic and was told by my doctor to start eating meat.

At the time I was eating a typical student diet and not taking the mineral supplements needed for health if you're meat free. Now I regularly supplement so know I'm not missing out on any nutrients from eating meat-free.

So what am I missing out on?
Well apart from the taste of a good steak, I'm actually not missing out on a lot.

Modern reared meat comes with the added extras of antibiotics and growth hormones. Even organic varieties may contain these but at much lower levels.

Meat is also a great source of saturated fats which are pro-inflammmatory and can clog your arteries as well as inhibit fat burning. You do need a small amount of saturated fats but you can get these by eating natural vegana sources such as coconut fat (I use for cooking) or cocoa butter (who doesn't like chocolate!) or shellfish.

Processed meat such as sausages, ham, pre-made burgers are the most unhealthy. Research quoted by Patrick Holford states eating one serving of processed meat a day increases the chance of mortality by 20 per cent, the equivalent of losing half an hour of your life every day or smoking two cigarettes!

In contrast vegetarians have a 12% lower cancer risk than meat eaters and fish eating vegetarians have a 18% lower risk, probably in thanks to having more omega3fats in their diet.

I generally only eat meat when there isn't an alternative on offer or as part of a particularly special meal. If you're a total carnivore the idea of giving up meat and eating just as part of your 20% treat meals may be unthinkable. But maybe start with meat-free Mondays and see how you go.

If you can work up to being meat-free monday morning to friday lunchtime you can then still enjoy meat when eating out or for any weekend treats like a sunday morning bacon buttie!

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