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The benefits of eating less meat
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By Melissa Hutsell

A sustainable diet and healthy lifestyle not only mean cutting back on the sweets, but also the meats.

On average, each American consumes more than 150 pounds of meat annually, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. In fact, we eat more meat than any other country – the majority of intake being red meat. Several health experts and organizations all agree that while the amount of meat eaten per individual has dropped, overconsumption is a cause for concern.

A wealth of research shows that the overconsumption of red and processed meat is harmful. The American Cancer Society and the World Cancer Research Fund warn of the links between the Western diet’s consumption of meat and cancer. As found by the ACS, eating foods high in saturated fats (such as bacon or steak) increase the risk for cardiovascular disease. In addition, it is also linked to chronic illnesses that include digestive disorders, breast and colon cancer.

"The Healthy Eating Plate encourages consumers to choose fish, poultry, beans or nuts, [and] protein sources that contain other healthful nutrients. It encourages them to limit red meat and avoid processed meat, since eating even small quantities of these foods on a regular basis raises the risk of heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer and weight gain,” according to Harvard School of Public Health’s Healthy Eating Plate.

However meat, even red meat, can be part of a nourishing diet because it contains protein, zinc, iron and B Vitamins, which are essential to health.
“You can easily fit beef, pork, bison and lamb into a heart healthy diet if you chose lean cuts and eat smaller portions,” said Andrea Chapin, RD, CNSC and clinical dietitian with Lodi Health.

“A growing body of evidence shows that lean beef, trimmed of visible fat, can be part of a healthy diet. There are 29 cuts of beef that meet the guidelines for (less than 10 grams total fat, less than 4.5 grams saturated fat, and less than 95 mg cholesterol per 3.5-ounce serving — the size of a deck of playing cards or the palm of your hand).”

Some of Americans favorite cuts are lean: T-bone, top sirloin, tenderloin (filet mignon), top loin (strip steak) and 95 percent lean ground beef.

Along with decreasing red/processed meat intake, eating more vegetables comes highly recommended, as Americans tend to be deficient in our consumption according to the Healthy Eating Plate.

“Americans need to eat more fruits and vegetables. The OmniHeart Diet, which is shown to lower bad cholesterol and blood pressure, suggests eating 11 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. With a fruit and vegetable intake that high, meat, poultry and fish intake is limited. Per the OmniHeart Diet, meat, poultry and fish consumption should be one to two 4-ounce servings per day," said Chapin.

As a nation of meat eaters, there has never been a better time to consider more meatless meals. Rather than abstaining completely, becoming a part-time vegetarian offers benefits without strict rules and comes with plenty of delicious substitutions. Here are some appetizing alternatives:

• When choosing beef and veal, pick cuts without much marbling (fat).
• When choosing chicken or other poultry, look for breast or white meat without the skin.
• Try low fat cooking methods such as baking, broiling, roasting, stewing or stir-frying. Cook ground meat and then drain off the fat.
• Switch things up with flavorful vegetarian entrees and vegetable protein foods like beans, veggie burgers or tofu. For example:
— Add soy protein crumbles to chili and spaghetti sauce
— Use tofu or tempeh in a stir-fry loaded with vegetables
— Make soups with edamame (fresh or frozen soy beans), lentils, split peas or dried beans
— Make an egg white omelet with green peppers, tomatoes and onion.
• Look for products that are low in saturated fat and sodium, and high in fiber

For a list of delectably healthy recipes, visit the American Heart Association at heart.org.