We’ve been hearing for some time now that we eat more meat than we shoud. So we’ve tried things like try meat free Mondays, and we’ve downloaded recipes for delicious vegetarian options. In the past two years I’ve personally seen a huge increase in the rise of people I know going vegan, there’s also been a rise in vegetarian friendly restaurants such as Lexi’s Health Eatery where their tagline is ‘Eat more plants’. While I’m not ready to give up meat completely I am looking at cutting down on the amount of meat I consume on a regulr basis.
South Africans are spending more time outdoors, enjoying their favourite pastime: feasting with family and friends. Who doesn’t enjoy a braai by the pool on a hot Summers day? As the festive season fast approaches, chances are the overindulgences are only going to increase, in frequency and serving size.
Everyone deserves a little “treat yo’self” moment now and then, but there are ways to splurge without putting your waistline at risk. One of the smartest things you can do is reduce meat in your diet, swapping out those slabs of steak for plant-based sources of protein.
These are three major health benefits when making the switch to a diet that is more plant-based – and you’ll definitely notice the advantages if you give the lifestyle a try.
It protects your heart
According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, cardiovascular disease – the world’s leading cause of death and disabilities – accounts for almost 1 in 6 deaths in South Africa. Daily, 225 South Africans die from heart disease and stroke, which is more than from all cancers combined.
South Africans’ lifestyles and diets are major contributors to this startling figure. So, making simple changes like reducing your intake of saturated fats can lower your risk of heart disease. Red meat contains a high amount of saturated fat, which can lead to artery-clogging cholesterol. Chop it from your diet, and increase plant-based alternatives instead, and you’ll be doing a lot to safeguard your heart. As an example, a 150g lamb chop contains 21.3g of Total Fat, while a plant-based meat alternative of the same size, like the Traditional Burger Patty from The Fry Family Food Co., contains 6.6g of Total Fat and none of the bad cholesterol. Plus, the patty comes with a bonus 0.9g of fibre to bolster digestive health and support healthy blood cholesterol levels.
Those summer body goals are more achievable
There’s no question that our bodies require protein – it’s one of the key building blocks to construct and repair tissues as well as make bone, blood and body chemicals. For anyone hitting it hard at the gym, you need protein to refuel and fortify your muscles, as well as stabilise those hunger hormones. This said, if you’re not seeing the body results you crave, maybe it’s time to relook at your diet.
Animal sources of protein are often calorie-dense, especially high-fat meats. Legumes, like beans and lentils, will provide the lean protein your body needs without the excess fat, cholesterol and calorie load that can end up sitting on your frame as unwanted bulk.
You’ll feel more energised and less moody
Dreading the process of weaning yourself off excessive meat consumption? Keep your eye on the prize: improved overall energy and wellness. Meat, especially in large servings, is more difficult to digest, leading to bloating and a sense of lethargy while your body uses precious energy to process your meal.
Upping the consumption of vegetables, whole grains and plant-based meat alternatives in the place of meat will improve gut health, and turbo-charge your system with vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants to reduce inflammation and support your immune system. Nitrate-rich foods like spinach, carrots and green beans also have proven vascular benefits, encouraging the flow of oxygenated blood for a further energising, and blood pressure-lowering, effect.
Not only does a plant-based diet lessen the filtering load on your liver and kidneys, and digestive system overall (your risk of bowel cancer will drop too!), it has hormone-stabilising advantages as well. Commercially-farmed animals are typically fed antibiotics and modified foods, and their impact can be passed on to you via the butcher’s counter, creating hormone level imbalance. By contrast, nutrient-packed plant products like flaxseeds and peanuts contain lignans, a type of phytoestrogen, or plant oestrogen equivalent, which can help to balance out your hormone levels depending on your body’s needs.
Eating vegetarian options doesn’t need to be boring and plain. You just need to prepare, plan ahead and your veggie options can be just as delicious and exciting as your regular meaty meals. A food blogger that I’m really enjoying at the moment is Le Famished Cat give her a follow and see if you enjoy her recipes as much as I do.
I’m feeling super motivated and ready to try more plant based alternatives, are you?