A Plant-Based Diet Vs. Red-Meat
We all know that red meat is one of the best sources of protein and is packed full with important nutrients.
A 100-gram portion of raw ground beef provides approximately 25% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin B3 and 32% of the recommended daily intake of zinc. Selenium, B6 and other key vitamins and minerals are also found in red meat. Rich in heme-iron, red meat is also important for maintaining the body’s iron levels.
However, there is growing concern that red meat can also be bad for our health.
Red Meat Linked To Chronic Diseases
In July 2016, the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology published a study identifying a link between kidney failure and red meat consumption. Researchers found that study participants with the highest intake of red meat had a 40% increased risk of kidney failure compared with participants who consumed little red meat.
Many other studies have indicated that a diet enriched with red meat can increase the risk of cancer and other diseases1, 2. The concern is so heightened that the World Health Organisation has classified processed meats, such as sausages and salami, as a Group 1 carcinogen. Also, burnt or charred meat contains carcinogenic compounds.
The WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Working Group has reviewed over 800 studies assessing the relationship between red meat and cancer. The risk of colorectal cancer increases by 18% with a daily intake of a 50 gram portion of processed meat. The IARC also documented a link between red meat intake and increased risk of pancreatic, colorectal and prostate cancers.
A Decline in Red Meat Consumption
Red meat is a staple food in many households. However, there has been a steady decline in the consumption of red meat in favour of plant-based diets.
In 2013, marketing intelligence agency Mintel reported that 12% of people in the UK were either vegetarians or vegans. This figure increased to 20% among people aged between 16 and 24.
Several years later, this trend is continuing, with more people opting for plant-based diets.
The Health Benefits of Plant-Based Diets
Research has shown that plant-based diets can be beneficial for health and disease prevention. A study published in the Nutrition Bulletin in November 2016 highlighted some of these advantages.
Authors, Harlan and Garton, conducted a meta-analysis of epidemiological studies and found that plant-based diets could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes by 20-25%3. Many clinical research studies have also shown that plant-based diets reduce the incidence of obesity.
The Top Plant-Based Sources of Amino Acids
All foods contain protein and a large variety of plant-based foods have many essential amino acids. The following plant derived foods offer a complete protein source; they contain all nine essential amino acids:
Some of the other best vegetarian sources of amino acids include:
- Nutritional yeast
- Sunflower seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, pistachios)
Considering Switching to a Plant-Based Diet?
It is an important decision to become a vegetarian. Red meat is a very rich source of protein. Vegetarians therefore need to take particular care to ensure that their nutritional needs are meet. It is important to do some research before adopting a plant-based diet.
Read How to Become a Vegetarian for more information.
Plant-Based Diets Can Be Exciting
Unfortunately, there is a common misconception that a plant-based diet is dull and boring. However, this isn’t the case. There are plenty of exciting and tasty recipes that are filling and nutritious. For some inspiration, check out these websites:
- “Bouvard, V. et. al. (2015). Carcinogenicity of consumption of red and processed meat. Lancet Oncology. Volume 16, (pp. 1599–600).” ↩
- “Richi E, et. al. (2015).Health risks associated with meat consumption: A review of epidemiological studies. International Journal of Vitamin and Nutrient Research. Volume 85, (pp. 70–8.).” ↩
- “Harland, J. and Gaton, L. (2016). An update of the evidence relating to plant-based diets and cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and overweight. Nutrition Bulletin. Volume 41, Issue 4, (pp. 323-8).” ↩