April 29, 2020
Cutting meat from your diet can be a significant lifestyle adjustment, but the documented health benefits can make the change well worth it.
If your doctor has recommended that you cut back on your meat intake or you have decided to fully embrace a meat-free diet, here are some of the changes your body may experience. Just keep in mind that the effects can vary from person to person.
Because red meat and heavily processed meat products tend to be calorie-dense, eliminating them from your diet may help you lose weight. A 2015 study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found that people following a vegetarian diet lost more weight than people on other diets.
Plenty of studies have demonstrated how going meatless can lower your risk for cardiovascular disease and heart disease-related mortality. An American Heart Association study found that people who ate plant-based diets were 16 percent less likely to develop heart disease and 32 percent less likely to die from heart disease and stroke.
The balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut has been linked to many different health issues. Adding probiotics to your diet can create a healthier gut environment, but so can going meatless. This is because animals that are conventionally raised have been given hormones and antibiotics that can wreak havoc on your gut microbiome.
In addition, your body produces Trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) while digesting red meat — high levels of which have been linked to cardiovascular disease, heart failure and chronic kidney disease.
Some studies have found that adopting healthier lifestyle changes (like reducing meat intake) can affect the length of our telomeres, which are the caps at the end of DNA strands that protect our chromosomes. The shortening of telomeres can cause damage to the DNA strands and has been linked to increased risk of breast and prostate cancers.
According to a 2019 Nature study, cutting back on or eliminating meat — especially red meat — and eating more nuts and fruits, which have anti-inflammatory properties, can reduce the inflammation levels in your body.
High levels of systemic inflammation in the body can weaken your immune system, contributing to the development of immune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
In order to reap the most benefits from going meatless, it’s important to protect yourself from any potential nutritional deficiencies.
When cutting out large food groups from your diet, it’s important to find alternative sources for the nutrients they provided. For instance, if you’re not getting most of your protein from meat, you’ll need to up your intake of other sources like eggs, low-fat milk, beans, peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds. Stay away from heavily processed and sugary foods that can also have a negative impact on your health.
Be sure to also talk to your doctor about taking supplements of certain essential nutrients and minerals like vitamin B12, vitamin D, and iron. A B12 deficiency can cause anemia or lead to damage to the nervous system.
Getting into the groove of making healthy meat-free meals doesn’t happen overnight so don’t get frustrated. Try to be as consistent as possible and remember it’s okay to start with just adding a few meatless meals into your weekly mix.
The more prepared you are before going meatless, the easier it will be to stick to it. Make sure you do plenty of research on tips and recipes ahead of time, and ask your doctor or nutritionist for help creating daily and weekly meal plans that are built around beans, lentils, vegetables, and whole grains instead of meat.
Information on this site is provided for informational purposes and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professional. You should not use the information contained herein for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication. If you have, or suspect that you have, a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.