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Next Monday, Go Meatless

By Megan Tempest in Food on May 13, 2010 4:00PM

If Mario Batali can commit to Meatless Monday, it’s quite possible anyone can. Recently the meat-intensive celebrity chef announced that all 14 of his restaurants will offer Meatless Monday options. Way to go Mario! And why wouldn’t he go meat-free? Sure, a gooey salty pepperoni pizza will always hold a place in our hearts, but vegetarian food is diverse, healthier, and freakin’ delicious.

The concept of “Meatless Monday” is to encourage people to eat meat-free one day a week, but it doesn’t have to be Monday. Just pick any day out of the week to keep meat off your plate, and take pride in knowing you’re helping your body and doing your part to help out the environment. Meatless Monday is a non-profit initiative, in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. According to its founders, the goal of Meatless Monday is to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet in the following ways.

Health Benefits

  • Limit Cancer Risk: Hundreds of studies suggest that diets high in fruits and vegetables may reduce cancer risk. Both red and processed meat consumption are associated with colon cancer.
  • Reduce Heart Disease: Recent data from a Harvard University study found that replacing saturated fat-rich foods (for example, meat and full fat dairy) with foods that are rich in polyunsaturated fat (for example, vegetable oils, nuts and seeds) reduces the risk of heart disease by 19%.
  • Fight Diabetes: Research suggests that higher consumption of red and processed meat increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Curb Obesity: People on low-meat or vegetarian diets have significantly lower body weights and body mass indices. A plant-based diet is a great source of fiber. This makes you feel full with fewer calories, which means lower calorie intake and less overeating. Research has found that eating more plant foods and less animal products may help individuals control their weight.
  • Live Longer: Red and processed meat consumption is associated with modest increases in total mortality, cancer mortality and cardiovascular disease mortality.
  • Improve Your Diet: Consuming beans or peas results in higher intakes of fiber, protein, folate, zinc, iron and magnesium with lower intakes of saturated fat and total fat.

Environmental Benefits

  • Reduce Your Carbon Footprint: The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that are accelerating climate change worldwide, far more than transportation. And annual worldwide demand for meat continues to grow. Reining in meat consumption once a week can help slow this trend.
  • Minimize Water Usage: The water needs of livestock are tremendous, far above those of vegetables or grains. An estimated 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water go into a single pound of beef. Soy tofu produced in California requires 220 gallons of water per pound.
  • Help Reduce Fossil Fuel Dependence: On average, about 40 calories of fossil fuel energy go into every calorie of feed lot beef in the U.S. Compare this to the 2.2 calories of fossil fuel energy needed to produce one calorie of plant-based protein. Moderating meat consumption is a great way to cut fossil fuel demand.

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