Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on January 21, 2021
It may be hard, but ditching those crispy pieces of bacon is better for you in the long run. Research shows both processed and red meats are high in saturated fat and can lead to ongoing inflammation. This could raise your chances of getting cancer and other diseases. Processed meat includes bacon, deli meat, and hot dogs. Red meat includes beef, pork, and lamb.
Better Gut Health
Research shows eating lots of processed food and refined grains can negatively affect your gut health. But a plant-based diet helps boost healthy gut bacteria. Fiber-rich foods especially trigger growth of good bacteria, which lower inflammation and your risk of inflammatory diseases.
You may feel tired and weak if you cut meat out of your diet. That’s because you’re missing an important source of protein and iron, both of which give you energy. The body absorbs more iron from meat than other foods, but it’s not your only choice. You can also find it in green, leafy veggies like spinach, as well as iron-rich cereal, bread, and pasta. Look for protein in eggs, beans, peas, lentils, nuts, seeds, and soy products.
More Trips to the Bathroom
Less meat and more fiber from whole grains, raw fruit, and veggies may mean extra time on the toilet. Fiber makes it easier to poop by pulling water into your colon. This makes your stools softer.
Lower Risk of Diabetes
Researchers have linked red and processed meat with a higher chance of type 2 diabetes. One study found that eating a half serving of red meat (one serving is the size of a deck of cards) a day boosts your odds of getting the disease by 48%.
Limiting foods with saturated fat, including meat, can lower “bad” or LDL cholesterol in your blood. Experts say saturated fats should make up less than 10% of your calories every day. If you still crave meat, try leaner, skinless cuts.
You Save Money
High-protein foods like beans, peas, lentils, and eggs are a cheaper alternative to meat. And buying in-season fruits and veggies can save you even more money. Data shows one person on a 2,000-calorie diet can eat enough fruit and veggies for less than $3 a day.
You Help the Environment
Replacing meat with plant-based foods lowers carbon and other greenhouse emissions. It takes more land to raise livestock than it does to grow food. Growing food also uses less water.
You May Need Supplements
When you follow a meatless or limited plant-based diet, you might miss out on important vitamins and minerals. Supplements can boost your levels of vitamin B12 (only found in animal-based foods), iron, calcium, and vitamins A, B, and D. Talk to your doctor about which supplements are best for you.
You May Lose Weight
Researchers reviewed 15 studies on how a vegetarian diet affects your weight. People who switched to a plant-based diet lost about 10 pounds, and those who were heavier lost more weight.
IMAGES PROVIDED BY:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America: “A red meat-derived glycan promotes inflammation and cancer progression.”
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences: “Inflammation.”
MD Anderson Center: “Processed meat and cancer: What you need to know.”
Frontiers in Nutrition: “The Effects of Vegetarian and Vegan Diets on Gut Microbiota.”
Cell Host & Microbe: “The Impact of Dietary Fiber on Gut Microbiota in Host Health and Disease.”
USDA: “Vary Your Protein Routine,” “Shop Smart,” “Fruit and Vegetable Prices.”