October is Vegetarian Awareness Month. Why is this important? Many of us like meat, pork or poultry on our plate. But did you know that most of us eat too much protein? According to the USDA, in the year 2000 our total meat consumption (red meat, poultry, pork and fish) reached 195 pounds on average per person per year, and according to the American Meat Institute this average was up to 200.4 pounds per person in 2007. This comes down to .55 pounds (6.5 ounces) a day.Thinking in terms of our total population; infants, children, teenagers, adults and elderly, adults will consume the larger portion of this, while infants, children and elderly will consume less. “Well”, you say: “dietary guidelines advise us to eat 5 to 6 oz of protein rich foods, what is your problem?” and you are right. However, these guidelines are not only talking about meat, poultry, pork and fish, they include grains, such as wheat, rice or barley, legumes (beans), nuts, eggs, and soy products as protein sources too. Most Americans will eat bread, rice, burritos, omelets, peanut butter, pizza and thus add more protein to their average consumption of 5 to 6 oz meat, poultry, pork or fish. So if most of us receive more than plenty of protein rich foods, what could be a reason to focus more on plant protein and less on animal protein?
Animal protein almost always adds cholesterol to our diet which our own body produces plenty of; high cholesterol in our blood is a risk factor for heart disease. Animal protein almost always adds saturated fats, even if you are very diligent on cutting off all fatty parts. (Did you know that the less fatty parts are the dryer pieces of meat?). Saturated fat has been linked to coronary heart disease.
On the other hand some plant protein sources are capable of taking out cholesterol from our bloodstream, think oatmeal, lentils, beans, peas…Secondly; many plant proteins add fiber (brown rice, whole wheat, or legumes), which most of us lack. According to the Institute of Medicine men need about 38 grams of fiber and women about 25 grams of fiber (14 grams per 1000 Calories consumed), our average is at 12 to 14 grams a person…..Do you need more reasons?
AND, the Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics approve of a vegetarian diet in the fight against diseases, especially heart disease, our number one killer in this country. More fiber means more fruits and vegetables which can form protection against several kinds of cancer and again heart disease. Make sure you read at least the abstract that AND, the Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics reports on vegetarian diets.
If you are like me, and are the main cook in the house, you know that you and your family become tired of the same meals over and over. Why not change things up by introducing meatless Mondays? If your family protests argue that you are saving them from extra antibiotics being used in the world, use of unnecessary growth hormones, lessen their carbon footprint by contributing less CO2 and methane, and save water. If that doesn’t do it let them read this article and all links…. and let me know what they said… Or you can act like my friend; secretly exchanging ground beef for meatless crumbles and they might not even notice…
If you don’t know where to start; here are some links to wonderful websites with delicious vegetarian and vegan meals:
Have some fun with it, and please don’t hesitate to comment or ask any questions…