5 reasons to have a ‘Meatless Monday’

Most people are not willing to give up meat completely, but skipping meat once a week can expose you to new foods and offer other health benefits.

Whether you choose to participate in “Meatless Monday” or avoid meat on another day of the week, Cris Williams, a registered dietitian with Advocate Medical Group in South Holland, Ill., shares how this trend can improve your health:

  1. Improves your nutrient consumption. Eliminating meat from meals encourages the consumption of protein through plant-based sources such as beans and nuts. Diets high in plant-based proteins are associated with lower intake of saturated and total fat and higher intake of essential nutrients like fiber, folate, zinc, iron and magnesium.
  2. Curbs obesity. Research has shown that those on plant-based diets tend to have a much lower weight and body mass index. The results are associated with the high content of fiber in plant-based diets, which contributes to fullness.
  3. Decreases your risk for chronic diseases. By eliminating meat from your diet one day a week, you can limit your risk for cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Fruit, vegetables and whole grain have been proven to protect against cardiovascular disease as well as several types of cancer. Also, a diet high in plant-based foods will reduce caloric intake and aid in weight management, a key component in the prevention and treatment of diabetes.
  4. Live longer. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in red meat has been shown to increase longevity. According to a 2010 study by Oxford University, limiting meat to three days per week could prevent 31,000 premature deaths from heart disease, 9,000 deaths from cancer and 5,000 deaths from stroke each year.
  5. Lowers your weekly budget. Plant proteins like beans or lentils are comparatively cheaper than their equivalent amount in animal protein. Animal products tend to be more expensive due to extra expenses in raising and processing livestock.

Before trying to cook dinner on Monday, Williams recommends finding recipes that substitute plant products for meat or find meals that do not require substitution at all. She also encourages her patient to think “global,” and borrow flavors from other cultures.

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