We all love a juicy steak every once in a while (a sustainably sourced steak, that is!), but we know over-indulgence in meats, especially red meats, increases the risk for a whole host of chronic diseases. Going meat-free just one day a week can have wonderful health benefits. Read on to learn about the top 8 health benefits of going meat-free one day a week.
A recent study of 15,000 participants found that following a predominantly plant-based diet (with a bit of fish!) was strongly associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Participants in that cohort were reported to have a 42% lower risk for heart diseases than those in other cohorts that involved meat and processed foods.
An analysis conducted on 49 nutritional studies determined that a vegetarian diet is associated with reduced cholesterol levels. This is thought to be because veggies tend to eat less saturated fat, and more plant sterols, which are known to block the absorption of cholesterol by the body.
A study from 2016 found that vegetarians lost weight faster than their meat-eating counterparts, and were more likely to keep it off. It also found that vegetarians are twice as likely to be gym-members than meat-eaters, and eat at fast food joints less frequently. A perfect storm to keep a trim bod (which has loads of health benefits in itself).
According to the NHS website, diet data from over 61,500 people indicates that vegetarians are 12% less likely to develop cancer than meat eaters, with that number going up to 45% if we only consider cancers of the blood.
The benefits don’t stop at physical health. One study has shown that veggies have better mental health than meat-eaters. After 2 weeks on a veggie diet, participants reported improved mood scores on the Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale and Profile of Mood States questionnaire. The thinking behind these results is that meat-eaters consume higher levels of omega-6 than veggies, a component which, when over-consumed, has been shown to promote brain changes that can negatively impact our mood. Plus, high blood levels of circulating omega-6, relative to omega-3, has been linked to clinical signs of depression. Mama knows best – eat those greens!
Lots of the chemicals that get used in food production, such as animal feed and environmental chemicals, end up in the fat of the animal in concentrated doses, as they accumulate throughout the animal’s life. Avoiding this by cutting meat out once a week can reduce the amount of toxic elements in your body. Moreover, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) published a statement in 2015 concluding that processed meats are carcinogenic (cancer-causing) to humans. Your weekly meat-free day is the perfect chance to decrease your consumption of these damaging foods.
Throw out the expensive face creams – nature’s got the answer for great skin. Interestingly, a study found that eating more fruits and veggies over a 35-week period led to perceptible differences in the participants’ skin complexion, and they were even judged to be more attractive by the end of the study.
Free radicals are unstable molecules which wreak havoc on our bodies, resulting in wrinkles, encouraging plaque build-up along artery walls, and damaging organ tissues and DNA. Certain environmental stressors can create free radicals in our bodies, such as UV rays from the sun (always wear sunscreen, guys!). Smoking and not eating well also contribute to ‘oxidative stress’ – the build up of free radicals in the body. Luckily, antioxidants, which are found in abundance in berries, green tea, and dark leafy veggies especially, mop up these free radicals, and stabilise them again. The result? Younger-looking features and organs that function properly for longer.