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What happens to your body when you stop eating meat? We have requested an RD

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Hot dogs at the baseball stadium, barbecue dishes of burgers and sausages, roast chicken at night, Thanksgiving turkey, holiday roast – many of our most memorable moments revolve around eating meat. So it may be surprising to know that there has been a huge increase in the number of people in the United States opting for plant-based diets in the last 15 years. Whether for health, sustainability or ethical reasons, more people choose to eat less animal protein, or none.

But what are the health implications of cutting meat from your diet? Is reducing or eliminating meat a panacea for all health problems? Or does it deprive you of important nutrients? And what should anyone know when making the transition from a diet that includes meat to one that is vegetable or completely vegan?

To answer some of these questions and find out what happens to your body when you stop eating meat, we turned to Dani Levy-Wolins, RD, a registered dietitian at Thistle and Nourilife. If you are considering changing your carnitas for jackets, here are some key factors to keep in mind.

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Know your starting point

Not everyone who considers a meat-free lifestyle starts from the same level or type of consumption, a factor that could have an impact on how the body reacts when deprived of animal protein. “When we consider how meat affects our physical health, we must first consider the type of meat consumed; studies suggest that processed meat, for example, may have more significant negative impacts than unprocessed meat,” says Levy. -Wollins. “Red meat, compared to white meat, may also correlate with an increased risk of certain disease states. This suggests that the type and source of meat protein play a role in our reaction. body when consumed “.

You’ll also want to consider the cut of meat you normally eat (fatty cuts of meat will provide more saturated fat and cholesterol, which could be a concern for certain populations) and how it is cooked (cooking over high heat creates heterocyclic amines, which can damage DNA).

Depending on such factors, the impact of cutting meat will vary greatly from person to person. So the first step is to take stock of how often you eat meat, the types of meat you eat, and how you cook it.

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What you lose and what you gain

In general, animal protein is not inherently good or bad for our health. As is true in all areas of nutrition, the issue is more nuanced than that. Meat has both beneficial and less beneficial components, and moderation is inevitably a factor.

“Meat provides essential micronutrients, such as energizing B vitamins, iron and zinc, and is also a source of complete protein,” says Levy-Wollins. A complete protein food contains the nine amino acids considered essential for good health, and these cannot be produced by the human body, we must obtain them from external sources. You can also get whole grains from sources other than meat, such as dairy products, eggs, and soy products (edamame, tofu, tempeh), or by combining other ingredients (e.g., rice and beans). But because meat is an extremely accessible and efficient source of complete protein, there can be drawbacks to stopping its consumption without replacing its nutritional benefits. “If meat is simply removed and not replaced, the consumer is at risk for iron deficiency or B12, anemia and muscle wasting,” explains Levy-Wollins.

On the other hand, there are definite and healthy benefits to eliminating meat from the diet. According to Levy-Wollins, these could include a decrease in saturated fats, cholesterol and sodium, all compounds that can increase certain health risks for conditions such as cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. “If meat is replaced by plant sources of protein, other benefits may include increased consumption of fiber, phytonutrients and antioxidants,” he adds. “Some research suggests this [swapping out] meat (especially red and processed meats) for herbal options may be associated with an increase in shelf life, especially with regard to the prevention of disease states such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. ” .

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Get the nutrients you need

If a former carnivore decides to abstain (or simply reduce), it is important that they still meet all nutritional requirements to maintain overall health and energy levels. There are certain vitamins and nutrients that consumers should pay special attention to if they are to give up animal protein. These include all five B vitamins (niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12), as well as overall protein and calorie intake.

While a plant-based diet can definitely be nutritionally complete, the transition from eating meat may require extra effort to avoid the shortage of calories, protein, and micronutrients. If you don’t have meat, Levy-Wollins recommends regular doctor visits and lab work to monitor your nutritional needs and any deficiencies.

There are also some telltale signs of micronutrient deficiencies that you can and should watch out for: “B12 deficiency, for example, is often presented as general weakness and lethargy, or as pale skin,” he says. Paying close attention to these factors becomes especially important in populations with increased nutritional needs, such as children, pregnant women, and the elderly.

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Start slow and be flexible

Whenever we consider making a change, says Levy-Wollins, it’s important to think about the full range of factors that drive our food choices. It is also important to take small steps as possible; this is useful for creating habits as well as giving the body time to adapt to changes.

“Food is such an integral part of our lives that any kind of dietary adjustment can be overwhelming or limiting at first. For this reason, it may be easier to start slowly, trying to limit portion size or frequency. consumption, “he says. If you’re a big meat eater, for example, you might not stop the cold turkey. Instead, consider options like choosing one or two days a week to go meatless (at least for a meal); commit to eating 80% meat-free meals; or simply avoiding a specific category of meat to begin with (red meat, processed meat, pork, etc.). Levy-Wollins recommends choosing a dedicated day (or a few) a week to let you eat animal protein instead of trying to deprive yourself for a whole week.

Also, choose plant ingredients that are plentiful and satiating, such as eggplant and portobello mushroom that have a mouth-watering sensation similar to that of animal protein. “Lastly, you may want to make sure that your nutritional needs are met by eating a variety of foods and lots of plant-based protein,” adds Levy-Wollins. “This will not only help you feel strong and healthy, but it can also introduce you to new and exciting ingredients!”

“As a general rule, the ‘plate method’ for eating can help support a balanced nutritional intake. The plate method recommends that half the plate be filled with fruit and vegetables, a quarter of the plate is full of starch and a quarter of the plate. full of protein, “Levy-Wollins adds.

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