Less red meat would lead to healthier Americans

Mississippi state Rep. John Hines, along with 71 fellow lawmakers, is setting an example for citizens of the state with the highest obesity rate in America. Hines and his colleagues have started working out together and have lost 1,300 total pounds since January.

But obesity problems aren’t confined to Mississippi. Every state has high percentages of overweight citizens, and poor diets and lack of exercise are the reasons for the high rates. Cutting down on red meat in the diet would improve the health of overweight Americans and would also contribute to a healthier planet.

Although being a vegetarian is great if you care strongly about animal rights, it may be too extreme for your health. If you are a vegetarian, it may do your body more harm than good, depending on the variety of nutrients you get. Moderation is best for your health and the environment, which is why, instead of cutting meat out of your diet entirely, you should try to limit how much red meat you eat.

Health perspective

Many red meats are high in saturated fat, which raises blood cholesterol. The super-sized American diet is putting us at higher risk for all sorts of diseases that stem from obesity.

Think of the traditional diets of Mediterranean and Asian countries. In those diets meat, especially of the red variety, is never eaten as the main part of the meal – it’s usually a side dish or not present at all. Fish is much more prevalent in these cultures, ensuring plenty of Omega-3 fatty acids. These are essential nutrients that lower triglycerides and help reduce the risk of death and heart attacks, as well as helping decrease blood pressure slightly, according to the Mayo Clinic.

If you decide to not eat any red meat, make sure to take iron supplements. Egg yolks are good sources of iron, and for those who avoid all animal products, there are many good plant sources of iron. These include dried beans, spinach and enriched products, according to the American Heart Association.

Environmental perspective

In 2007 MSNBC reported that some scientists had found that methane gas emitted by livestock may be contributing to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, which in turn can lead to global warming.

Waste from livestock contributes to water contamination as well. In 1999, “the majority of North Carolina’s manure lagoons spilled over into waterways during Hurricane Floyd, leading to widespread water contamination,” according to Sustainable.org. And most states require no treatment of animal waste.

Demand for meat is increasing around the world, including in China where citizens now eat double the amount of red meat they ate just 10 years earlier. This will contribute to increased rates of obesity and degrade the environment even more. By eating less meat, we reduce the demand for meat, which in turn reduces the impact keeping livestock has on the planet.

Better choices

Ground beef is a staple of American culture. It’s used in everything from tacos to chili, burgers and sloppy Joes. But there are many healthier and environmentally friendly alternatives to ground beef. Ground turkey or chicken can be used in chili, or the meat can be omitted altogether and several types of beans can be used instead. Shredded chicken can be the main element in tacos and grilled or baked chicken breast can replace ground beef in burgers.

For those who are partial to the all-American burger, try eating it less often and in smaller portions. Nobody needs the 540 calories and 29 grams of fat a Big Mac offers, so why not make burgers at home with leaner beef and eat a burger every other week instead of waiting in the drive-thru for lunch and dinner several times a week?

Make the change today, because eating red meat in moderation can improve your health and that of the environment, too.

Stephani Bloomquist can be reached at slbloomquist@stthomas.edu.

One Reply to “Less red meat would lead to healthier Americans”

  1. Well I think everyone can agree that less red meat would be healthier for us… but it’s so tasty! 

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