Becoming a “flexitarian”

If you have been working hard to cut out processed foods and start eating organically and/or locally grown foods, does that mean you can still eat meat? The answer is…sometimes. According to Michael Pollan:

There are literally scores of studies demonstrating that a diet rich in vegetables and fruits reduces the risk of dying from all the Western diseases. In countries where people eat a pound or more of fruits and vegetables a day, the rate of cancer is half what it is in the United States. We also know that vegetarians are less susceptible to most of the Western diseases, and as a consequence live longer than the rest of us.

So becoming a vegetarian doesn’t exactly fit into your lifestyle? Not to worry, because you can still reap the same health benefits as a vegetarian if you, as Thomas Jefferson once said, treat meat as a “condiment for the vegetables.” If you cut back to less than one serving of meat per day you can consider yourself a “flexitarian” with a risk of heart disease and cancer that is equally as low as a vegetarian.

Think about it like this – the less meat you consume the more of something else you will eat instead, and hopefully that will be veggies and fruit. And “by eating a plant-based diet you will likely consume fewer calories (which is itself protective against many chronic diseases).” Easy enough, right?

It is also important to consider the following when thinking about the optimal way to fit meat into your diet:

  • “The more meat there is in your diet – red meat especially – the greater your risk of heart disease and cancer.”
  • Ideally, you should purchase meat from a local source (check your farmers’ market), and if that is not possible go with organic.
  • You are what you eat eats too…some of our food animals, such as cows and sheep, are ruminants that evolved to eat grass; if they eat too many seeds they become sick, which is why grain-fed cattle have to be given antibiotics.”  So in the case of red meat look for beef from cattle that have been 100% grass-fed.

We have been trying to eat more like “flexitarians” ourselves and have found it easiest to just think of meat as a side dish, topping or flavor contributor rather than a main course (or just as an occasional main course). It was a difficult transition at first, but we know the health benefits are more than worth it in making this our  “new normal”.

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  • Comments

    1. Liz |

      The problem when cutting out too much meat is that people will replace meat with grains, not typically fruits and vegetables. Although grains have vitamins and nutrients in them, they are not as bioavailable (the ability for the body to absorb the vitamins and nutrients) as the vitamins and nutrients in produce and meats. There are high levels of phytates in grains, which inhibit the absorption of not only the vitamins and nutrients in grains, but also the vitamins and nutrients in other foods. There are many vegetarians and vegans who have severe nutrient deficiencies and a host of health problems from following their diet for a long period of time. I believe we eat too much protein in this country, too. I lean towards more of a Paleo/primal diet (80/20 rule). I found that my meat consumption is about the same, but my grain intake is down and my produce consumption is up. I would like your thoughts on why you believe grains are good for people. The average American consumes about 75% of their calories from carbohydrates and this mostly isn’t from produce, but bread, pancakes, cereal, cheetos, crackers, rice, pasta, etc. The average American is also overweight We have unprecedented levels of infertility, type 2 diabetes, gastrointestinal issues, autoimmune diseases, inflammation, etc.

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