Meat, Less and Go Veg More

This image is no longer available

Plant-based diets are linked to lower blood pressure, lower risk of diabetes and better cardiovascular health. But what if you can’t stomach the idea of giving up cheeseburgers forever?

Plant-based eating may be good for you, your planet and the people who share it, but what if you can’t stomach the idea of giving up cheeseburgers forever?

Try scaling back, choosing smaller meat portions, less often. That’s how it’s done in India, says Madhur Jaffrey, author of Vegetarian India: A Journey Through the Best of Indian Home Cooking.

“Meat, if it’s there at all, is just a small part of the plate,” says Jaffrey. “It’s not like those huge, one-pound New York steaks. That amount would feed eight people in India!”

That’s also the thinking behind the Meatless Monday movement, which promotes vegetarian eating one day a week.

“Your effects on the environment and other creatures are enormously reduced by even small changes downward on the food chain,” says David Steele, president of Earthsave Canada.

Click through for four reasons to eat more plant-based foods.

It’s healthier

Studies have linked a plant-based diet to lower blood pressure, decreased risk of diabetes and better cardiovascular health.

“There are definitely some awesome health benefits from vegetarian eating,” says Lalitha Taylor, a registered dietitian in Edmonton.

Many plants are high in essential nutrients, and eating less meat reduces the animal fats that can clog your arteries. Vegetarians tend to take in more fibre, eat fewer processed foods and even get more exercise compared to meat eaters, all factors that contribute to a healthy weight.

“A better body weight can be associated with longevity and increased energy,” Taylor adds.

Up next: Antibiotic use

It alleviates antibiotic use

Eighty percent of antibiotics in North America are given to farm animals, not people. Farmers in Canada and elsewhere routinely use antibiotics to prevent illness or even promote growth without a veterinarian’s approval. This widespread use is causing concerns about drug-resistant disease.

A new epidemiological study in Denmark shows a clear link between antibiotic-resistant staph infections (MRSA) and people’s proximity to Danish pig farms, over half of which are contaminated with a strain of the bacteria. While harmless to pigs, the bacteria can be transmitted by farm workers into the wider community, where it infects humans.

Next up: GMOs

It reduces GMOs

The majority of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) today are grown to feed livestock. The World Health Organization has found no evidence that GMOs are harmful to our health.

But because they can often withstand pesticides and single species are grown in large areas, they may impact on the environment through greater chemical use, elimination of insects and other plants, and decreased biodiversity.

“You’re taking a huge risk when you narrow the varieties you’re growing,” says Steele, who’s also a retired molecular biologist. “If a fungus comes in and wipes out our food supply, you don’t have any resistant species.”

Up next: Ethical meat

It makes room for ethical meat

Many producers raise beef and poultry humanely – room to roam, grass to eat, free of hormones.

But there’s not enough land available to support ethical meat for all, says Steele. “There are so many of us. The amount of meat we’re eating now requires concentrated numbers of animals.”

In the grocery store, check for logos such as Certified Humane Raised and Handled, and Canada Organic, or ask your store manager whether the meat has been certified as humane or organic (organic standards cover ethical treatment of animals). Humanely raised meat is stocked in a variety of stores including Loblaws, Metro, Sobeys and Whole Foods.

Up next: It’s delicious

It’s delicious

As well as Vegetarian India, we’re also inspired by Angela Liddon’s The Oh She Glows Cookbook and Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty!

For Jaffrey’s latest volume, she criss-crossed India in order to collect a variety of unique dishes. “It was an absolutely wonderful world of unknown,” she says.

“Each region has its own history and geography, so they grow different things and have different traditions.”

With recipes like wild mushroom stew with coconut sauce or risotto of dal, rice and vegetables, you may never want meat again.