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Surprising Health Benefits of Eating Less Meat
March 8, 2015
You may have already heard that eating too much meat is linked to a slew of health problems, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and obesity. Since meat is high in saturated fat and cholesterol and low in fiber, it shouldn't come as too big of a surprise that excess meat isn't good for you. But there are also many other less obvious health benefits that come with cutting meat out of your diet. Whether you are a dedicated vegan, a semi-vegetarian, or a meat-reducer, here are some of the surprising benefits which you may enjoy. Although there are countless advantages to meat reduction, here are a select few that we wanted to showcase:
Mental health is an often overlooked issue that deserves more recognition in society. As an ailment that isn't clearly visible, this problem is not discussed nearly enough and prescription drugs aren't always the best (or most effective) solution. With 13% of Americans taking antidepressants, mental health is definitely something that we should pay attention to. It turns out that eating less meat may be one valid way to combat this problem and boost our mental health.
A recent study by researcher Bonnie Beezhold linked eating meat to poor mood. In this study, Beezhold first assessed the moods of people on a typical omnivore diet. Then she divided them into groups. One group continued to eat meat, one switched to a pescatarian diet (fish allowed), and one switched to a vegetarian diet. After two weeks, the subjects then had their moods analyzed again. The vegetarian group had shown significant consistent improvements in mood, even more than the fish group.
The reason that meat may be affecting our mental health is because it contains high amounts of the fatty acid Omega 6. Large amounts of Omega 6 can cause problems like depression and bipolar disorder, among others. By cutting meat from your diet, you reduce excess Omega 6 intake and can enjoy a boost to your mood.
Better Hormonal Health
In the meat industry, it is an overwhelmingly common practice to give animals hormones such as estradiol (a form of estrogen), testosterone, and progesterone in order to increase growth to maximize their output. As the saying goes, you are what you eat – and, yes, we humans directly ingest these hormones as well when we eat meat pumped with it.
There has been surprisingly little research as to whether these hormones are safe for humans. Yet, the evidence we do have is worrisome. A 2010 study found that children who consumed high amounts of animal protein entered puberty about 7 months before children who ate the least amount of animal protein. Other studies have found that the hormone residues in meat yields lower sperm counts in men.
Children and pregnant women are likely the most at risk for these negative side effects, but it goes without saying that extra hormones beyond our natural production do not benefit any of us. With this knowledge, it's no wonder why countries like Europe, Australia, and Japan have banned hormone-treated meat from the US.
Less Body Odor
It turns out that meat may be to blame for those unholy smells. In an interesting 2006 study, men were separated into groups with a vegetarian or meat-eating diet. Then samples of their body odor were taken and given to women to sniff. The women rated each body odor sample for its “pleasantness, attractiveness, masculinity, and intensity". The men on the vegetarian diet consistently had their body odor rated better (specifically less stinky). This finding held consistent even after the groups had their diets switched, meaning the original groups swapped diets and the non-meat group was again ranked higher.
Why does meat make you smell? The understanding is that toxins from decomposing meat get secreted along with sweat. The toxins may stink by themselves, but they also attract bacteria which feed on them and produce further unappetizing byproducts.
If you eat meat, here's a scary fact for you: In a study of over 70,000 people, researchers found that vegetarians were 12% less likely to die from cardiovascular-related issues compared to meat eaters. This study backs up the findings of so many others which have repeatedly found that vegetarians live longer on average than meat eaters. Another medical study found that the blood of vegetarians and vegans was more effective at fighting cancer cells than meat-eaters.
Of course, we know that the goal shouldn't just be to live longer. What's important to live a long and healthy quality life. Since vegetarians have much lower incidences of heart disease, cancers, kidney stones, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and obesity, they are certainly likely to enjoy these extra years too.
For some people, it may seem impossible to cut out meat completely. However, limiting the amount and frequency of animal product consumption is always a great option to improve your overall health, help the environment, and feel better mentally, physically, and morally. If you're in need of some dish inspiration, check out some of our recipe posts with plenty of plant-based and delicious options!