Becoming a “flexitarian”

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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. 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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42 comments to Becoming a “flexitarian”

  • [...] Only locally raised meats such as pork, beef, and chicken (preferably in moderation) [...]

  • Christa

    I read the article.. read the comments, then reread a part of the article–the quote from Thomas Jefferson, and suddenly realized that I DO this already a lot of the time. Perhaps not with as much veggies as I should, but I often make something like spaghetti with a lb of ground venison. Divided between the 7 people in the house and usually one person worth of leftovers, this is only about 2 oz of meat per person–far less than a standard serving. I’ve also done a mushroom venison cream type sauce with 1/2 to 1 lb of meat, and put the sauce over a bed of brown rice. Not the greatest perhaps in my grains to veggies ratio, but I’m realizing that meals with meat as the main entree are really actually few and far between at my house. The only one i can recall recently was the beef hot dogs we had on Independence day.

  • Kristen

    It pains me to see an otherwise well-thought-out blog missing such an important point. Red meat is full of nutrients that have been nourishing our ancestors for centuries. Of course, as Americans, we overdo the quantity and underdo (if that’s a word) the quality of almost everything we eat. But grass-fed (and finished) beef is something to be enjoyed regularly, if you can find an affordable source near you. But don’t take my word for it. Read up on the work of Weston A. Price:

  • Lacey

    Vegetarians live longer than meat-eaters?? It’s interesting that the quote you shared said that vegetarians live longer than the rest of us. I’m wondering where Michael Pollan got his information because everything I’ve researched and studied says that vegetarians actually don’t live as long as meat-eaters.

    • Lacey

      Just to clarify, I don’t think meat should always be the main course, and I agree that it should be organic, etc. and I love this blog, but I don’t agree on the things Lisa wrote about meat.

  • Chris

    Research has shown that Organic beef is in no way more healthy or safe than non-organic. You get 10 times more beta estrogen hormones from a serving of broccoli than from a serving of beef that came from an animal with an implant. Also, the statement made about animals needing to be on antibiotics because of being grain fed is completely inaccurate. Not all feedlot animals are on antibiotics. Also, the antibiotics that are used on cattle are species specific, and so they cannot contribute to an increased resistance to antibiotics in humans. Just thought you would like to know the facts. Let me know if you would like sources. And yes red meat eaters do live longer than vegetarians:)

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