Benefits of reducing meat consumption

Benefits of reducing meat consumption


According to some studies, limiting the consumption of meat – when it is of poor quality and present in excess in the diet – could have numerous benefits for general health.

However, the conclusions deduced do not take into account numerous variables which are fundamental to defining a realistic and indicative general picture. For example, the fatness of the meat, the type, the degree of processing, the presence of additives, the cooking method, etc. But also the pre- and post-restriction calorie intake of meat, therefore the impact of the new diet on weight. And again, the previous amount of foods of plant origin, etc.

In any case, from the insights, the reduction of meat in the diet of the general population has been linked to an improvement in general health and a reduction in the risk of certain diseases (reduction of cholesterolemia, optimization of intestinal health, better weight control, etc.) .

Overall, these benefits appear to be closely related to overall diet and lifestyle To be clear: it is easy to deduce that a person who eats fast food every day will have an overall less healthy lifestyle than someone who, for example, follows a vegan diet.

Reducing meat consumption: pros and cons

Diets with no or limited amounts of meat are associated with health benefits.

Vegetarian diets, which exclude meat, and vegan diets , which exclude all animal products , appear to statistically reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer, but also improve insulin resistance and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

The possible health benefits of limiting meat and consuming more vegetables include:

  • from the moderation of saturated fats and cholesterol, certain additives (nitrates and nitrites) and carbonization residues (cooking on the grill, grilled, fried, etc.);
  • from the increased consumption of plant foods that contain antioxidants, fibers and beneficial micronutrients .
  • from a less caloric diet. 

However, cutting out meat and consuming other processed foods high in added sugar, salt, and “dubious” fats wo n’t have the same benefits, even if the processed foods are of plant origin .

Drastically reducing meat consumption, on the other hand, causes chronic vitamin B12 deficiency , and can increase the risk of suboptimal levels of iron (in women), calcium (especially in growing, elderly and pregnancy) and zinc.

Benefits for the heart

One of the most studied aspects of plant-based diets is their effect on heart health.

There is a clear correlation between the intake of saturated fat, which is found mainly in animal products, and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. In this sense, fatty cuts, cured meats (sausages, frankfurters, etc.), fatty cured meats, etc., which can contribute to the development of hypercholesterolemia, high blood pressure, etc., should be avoided or limited in quantity and frequency of consumption.

Meats with a low saturated fat content, to be preferred no more than twice a week, are: skinless poultry, rabbit, certain types of game, frogs, lean cuts (e.g. fillet) and trimmed (e.g. loin, which has mainly external fat), obtained from animals of “lean” varieties.

Logically, in the same animal, there are cuts that are leaner than others and, on the basis of the above logic, they should be preferred over the others; however, for reasons of sustainability, we cannot think of eating only a part of the animal. On the contrary; it would be correct for consumers to understand that they are eating every part of the beast, including offal . If too much saturated fat, cholesterol and calories are being eaten overall, it means that the overall amount of meat is still too high.

Additionally, the greatest reductions in heart disease risk were seen when replacing saturated fat sources with unsaturated fat sources (especially oleic, alpha-linolenic, linoleic acid), such as fish, oily seeds such as flax and sunflower seeds, and dried fruit in general.

Plant-based diets are often rich in sources of unsaturated fats, such as olive oil, and dietary fiber, nutritional factors that can help reduce high blood cholesterol levels. As a result, eating more plant-based while cutting down on meat that is high in saturated fat may benefit heart health.

Benefits for the intestine

Diets that exclude meat are often rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and other plant foods, which boast a good content of dietary fiber which is valuable for intestinal well-being, as they perform an anti-inflammatory and immune support action in the body . Gut bacteria may also play a role in preventing the growth of some cancer cells, improving body composition and protecting against type 2 diabetes .

Plant-based foods promote the growth of beneficial microflora in the gut, while an excess of animal products facilitates the predominance of other bacteria that can negatively affect it.

Cancer reduction

Limiting your consumption of certain types of meat may also help reduce your risk of certain types of cancer.

Eating a lot of processed meats, such as bacon, frankfurters, and other smoked, cured meats, has been linked to a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer.

Some researchers have suggested that saturated fats and carcinogenic compounds produced during meat processing and high-temperature cooking play a key role in the development of cancer cells. Plant foods, on the other hand, appear to have a protective effect against colorectal and other cancers.

Therefore, those who consume mainly chicken and rabbit, occasionally steaks from large animals, all cooked in an “intelligent” way – with normal portions of fruit, vegetables, cereals and legumes – do not show any increased risk of cancer.

A sustainable choice…

Limiting the consumption of meat is OBJECTIVELY a sustainable choice that is good not only for the body but also for the environment.

This is because the production of meat requires more resources, leads to higher greenhouse gas emissions and contributes to deforestation and pollution to a greater extent than the production of minimally processed fruits, vegetables and other plant foods. 

Limit meat: advice

Some tricks on how to limit the consumption of red meat, processed and sausages, rich in saturated fat and sodium.

  • Replace the portion of red meat with poultry, rabbit animals, sustainable fishing products, lean milk derivatives and eggs: fewer calories and saturated fats;
  • Increase protein sources of vegetable origin: especially from legumes, but also from oilseeds and cereals (black beans, chickpeas, borlotti beans, lentils, walnuts and other nuts); soy-based products such as tofu and tempeh have a higher environmental impact, but not comparable to that of meat;
  • Prepare vegetable burgers by replacing, even partially, the classic minced meat such as legumes and vegetables such as chickpeas and spinach, or broccoli;
  • Try vegetable ragù based on lentils, for example, and flavor with the classic spices used in traditional recipes.


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