Meat Free Week; why consider consuming less meat?

Meat Free Week has landed so we thought we’d take the opportunity to have a look at some of the reasons why people go meat free. The purpose of Meat Free Week is to challenge participants to give up meat for seven days and to raise funds for a great cause. Anyone can take part in the challenge and it’s a great opportunity to discover just how easy it can be to make small changes that can create a big difference.

Obviously, going completely meat free overnight would be a challenge for anyone but experts say that by cutting your meat consumption by as little as one meal a week it will save the equivalent of 8 days of water for personal use. It is also reported that the worldwide meat consumption needs to be reduced by 50% by 2050 to save the planet. With so much talk on the subject at the moment and with the likes of Russell Brand to Venus Williams opting for a meat free lifestyle, let’s take a look at some of the reasons people choose to reduce their meat consumption.

Health benefits

Paul and Stella McCartney launched Meat Free Monday in 2009, which is a not-for-profit campaign raising awareness of the detrimental impact that eating meat has on our planet. It encourages people to eat at least one meat free meal a week to help slow down climate change, conserve vital natural resources and improve health.

With the absence of meat it’s vital to ensure that protein is still consumed in other forms, such as beans, legumes and tofu. Chickpeas actually have a higher nutritional value than chicken. 100g of chickpeas provide 19g of protein, iron, B6, magnesium, calcium, Vitamin C and 6g fat. Whereas 100g of chicken, provides 27g of protein, 233mg of potassium, B6, little iron and magnesium and 14g of fat.

Eating a more plant-based diet is also proven to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and other chronic conditions.

Help the planet

Food production accounts for 30% of total greenhouse gas emissions, with animal products responsible for the vast majority of these effects. The production of meat has a large impact on our carbon footprint, from the transportation of animals, to the methane gas released by livestock and the vast amounts of water and land used for the process.

The average person in the UK eats around 84.2kg of meat every year. Vegan and vegetarian diets are said to have the least impact on greenhouse gas emissions compared to those that eat meat, who have twice the greenhouse emissions of someone on a plant-based diet.

Improve your mood and sleep

Eating a more plant-based diet can improve your mood in the short term. A study conducted by Nutritional Journal found that participants who reduced their meat consumption and increased vegetable intake had significantly improved mood scores after two weeks. This may be because meat contains long chain fatty acids, predominantly arachidonic, which are associated with depression.

Vegan and vegetarian diets involve more complex carbohydrates, such as peas, beans and whole grain, which are used for energy and also increase the feel-good hormone serotonin. Serotonin can be found in foods such as spinach, seeds, pineapple and tofu.

Eating more vegetables means an increased consumption of vitamins such as magnesium and calcium, which help to regulate your sleep cycle according to nutritionist Geeta, the founder of Nosh detox. The highest source of magnesium comes from foods such as spinach, pumpkin seeds and avocados.

Animals

Opting to eat less meat will ultimately contribute to reducing the number of animals bred and killed each year. It is estimated that by going vegan you can save 100 lives per year and with statistics such as only 3% of pigs spend their entire lives outdoors when they are considered the 5th most intelligent animal in the world, those that reduce their meat consumption by as little as once a week will have a positive impact.

35% of people in the UK classify themselves as “semi-flexitarian” meaning that they follow a plant-based diet and occasionally eat meat or fish. Living this lifestyle is not about limiting yourself but about embracing a healthier lifestyle and helping the planet.