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Myths vs. Facts: What Happens If You Stop Eating Meat?

a woman eating a salad on her plant-based diet

People choose to stop eating meat for a variety of reasons. Some believe it can improve their heart health. Some think it will be cheaper. Others want to help save animals and lighten their carbon footprint. And some have their own mix of personal reasons for switching to an all plant-based diet.

But is this a good change for you? And how much do you know about plant-based diets?

Myths vs. Facts: No More Meat

On the fence about going vegetarian or vegan? Here’s some info about what happens when you stop eating meat.

If you don’t eat meat, you won’t get enough protein in your diet.

Myth. Vegetarians can get more than enough protein by eating protein-rich foods. These include:

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein for healthy adults is about 10-15% of total daily calories. And research shows a majority of Americans already get twice as much protein as they need.

If you stop eating meat, you won’t get enough of some vitamins and minerals.

Myth. Besides protein, red meat, poultry, and seafood contain essential nutrients that our bodies need. For instance, red meat contains vitamin B-12, iron, and zinc.

But if you don’t eat meat, you can still get enough of these nutrients by eating non-meat foods that contain the same nutrients. Yogurt, low-fat milk, fortified plant-based milk, eggs, and cheese are all good sources of vitamin B-12. Nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, and tofu contain zinc and iron.

Eating meat definitely contributes to heart disease and cancer.

Myth. According to the National Institutes of Health, a number of studies over the years linked red meat with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, some cancers, and diabetes.

But other research shows that a low level of consumption – no more than 2-3 servings per week – is not detrimental to your health. If you want to eat meat, do so sparingly and select leaner cuts whenever possible.

Plant-based meat alternatives are better for you than meat.

Myth. Popular meat alternatives are still relatively new. There are no large research studies determining whether they’re good or bad for our bodies. Some studies show a reduction in risk for cardiovascular disease. However, research is still limited.

If the food is high in sodium, keep in mind that too much sodium in your diet can lead to increased blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Be sure to take into account the ingredient list and important nutrients for heart health, such as sodium and trans fat.

Thinking About Changing Your Diet?

Talk with your primary care doctor to find the best choice for you.

Vegetarians are healthier than meat-eaters.

Myth. The terms “plant-based,” “vegetarian,” and “meatless” don’t automatically equate to “healthy.” There are plenty of foods that come from plants that aren’t considered to be good nutritional choices, including white bread, white rice, and french fries.

And many foods that don’t come from plants offer nutritional benefits. For example, dairy products provide calcium, potassium, vitamin D, and protein. Seafood is a good source of vitamin D, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids.

With any diet, it’s important to ensure that you’re getting adequate amounts of important nutrient. And that you’re consuming the right amount of calories, fat, protein, and carbohydrates for you.

A vegetarian diet usually costs less than a similar diet containing meat.

Fact. There are definitely plant-based foods out there that are hard on the wallet. But in general, a plant-based diet is less expensive overall than a meat-based one.

You can usually buy large quantities of fruit, vegetables, grains, beans, or lentils for what it costs for a much smaller quantity of meat. Although nuts are expensive, serving sizes are relatively small because they are calorie-dense foods. A little goes a long way.

You can also save money by growing your own produce and herbs at home.

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