If in the list of good New Year's resolutions you have included starting to eat less meat Without further delay, congratulations. Your health and that of the planet will thank you. Now, one thing is to say it and another to break with a lifetime of steaks, chops and hamburgers. Once you get down to work you will have doubts about what to put on the plate to not lose strength or gain weight, there will be moments of weakness when you will not be clear about the benefits of depriving yourself of such an affordable food, and there will be times when you will wonder if all this to reduce the consumption of meat will be nothing more than a passing fad, a waste of time. It is natural, but fulfilling the plan is gradually worth it. So save and reread the next lines as many times as necessary until you have turned your purpose into a new healthy habit.
It's not about turning your back on this food completely. It seems clear that the Spaniards (and the pattern is repeated in other countries) consume a lot of red meat and processed products, which means that There is ample room to trim without finishing eating only green. "The idea is to maintain more consumption of non-red meats with respect to the red ones, the recommended fish and legumes. Do you want to drastically reduce your consumption of meats? Compensate with fish and legumes. Do you also want to reduce fish? strategy will then be to ensure a high intake of legumes, "says Eduard Baladia, a member of the Spanish Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and coordinator of the Evidence-Based Nutrition Network (RED-NuBE). This is how the transition is made without compromising the presence of a single nutrient.
Proteins and iron 'from grandma's kitchen'
More than 30% of Spaniards consume protein above the recommended range, according to ANIBES report data. The document also notes that 33.1% of them come from meat and its derivatives, which means that There are almost 70% of protein foods in the diet that are not meat. There are legumes, milk and dairy products, eggs, fish, cereals, nuts … It is the first thing to consider when reducing meat consumption. Unless one is given to fast or make an extremely restrictive diet (for example, decide to eat only lettuce or apple), the proteins will reach the plate in sufficient quantity, and not only based on tofu, quinoa and seitan, ingredients that they may sound too much hipster. The grandmother's kitchen is an excellent resource to fulfill the first part of the plan. "A very healthy alternative to meat is legumes. There are small differences between them, but they are not too relevant, and it does not matter whether they are made at home or canned."
Of course, these foods do not have complete proteins because they lack all amino acids. The way to solve the problem is combine on the same day cereals, nuts or seeds. Arantza Muñoz Hernández, senior technician in dietetics and vegan, puts on the table several menu proposals: lentils with rice, hummus with pita bread, chickpeas with spinach and pine nuts, lentil salad with nuts, brown rice sauteed with vegetables and almonds … Are you going to eat beans? Eat yogurt with oatmeal. Or toast with tomato and olive oil. So you will have the cereal ration from the early hours of the morning.
Proteins are not the only nutrient that one should keep in mind when reducing meat consumption, iron is another crucial chapter. "With fish, eggs and white meat consumption is assured," says Baladia. You may have heard that meat contributes heme iron, easier to assimilate than nonheme from vegetables. That does not mean that three days after marking distances with the fillets you will have a galloping anemia. "What happens is that the absorption of nonheme iron is much less efficient. It is compensated by consuming more nonheme iron. In addition to the vegetables, It includes whole grains and green leafy vegetables, such as kale or spinach. But, above all, it avoids substances that hinder its absorption (such as calcium from dairy) and increases the intake of those that favor it (such as ascorbic acid or vitamin C). "
And always have fruits on hand (especially blueberries, strawberries, oranges, tangerines, pineapple, lemons …), fresh vegetables and chopped parsley, for their vitamin C intake. This vitamin is necessary to metabolize iron, so do not skimp Muñoz offers two examples: chickpea salad with tomato and lemon juice dressing, and stewed lentils with spinach and mandarin oranges for dessert. On the other hand, it should be borne in mind that tannins put obstacles to iron absorption, which restricts coffee and tea, or that ounce of chocolate after eating. If you want to take these products, allow 60 to 90 minutes from the end of the meal. Too It is important to avoid drinking wine with meals, since, in addition to tannins, alcohol also hinders iron absorption.
If you plan to reduce the consumption of meat, but not that of other foods of animal origin, such as fish, eggs and chicken, iron is assured. If you want to reduce your intake of all of them, you should evaluate your physical condition at critical moments such as pregnancy. "They will have a high risk patient category if they already had iron deficiency consuming these foods," says Baladia.
If cows pollute, do I also reduce milk?
The decision to reduce meat consumption may be good for your health, but nobody has talked about stopping eating meat radically, let alone banning it. "The recommendation was to limit the consumption of red and processed meats to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and cancer. In November 2019, a new review of that thesis was known that the evidence is not so strong and that the impact of meats red could be small and uncertain. Right now nutritionists-dietitians have many doubts about what exactly to recommend ", Baladia confesses.
Of course, health is not the only reason to eat less meat, the environment is also a powerful reason. Livestock generates 16.5% of all greenhouse gases of human origin, and not only because of the famous flatulence of the cow; it also pollutes the transport of feed, the transfer of animals, the energy consumed by meat factories … All this influences climate change, which favors droughts, unpredictable and extreme weather, and increasingly long and hot summers. The FAO warns that the water footprint of livestock (the cost in liters of water) is huge: 15,000 liters of water are needed to produce a single kilo of meat (it is not only what the cow drinks, it also counts the irrigation of the grass). A kilo of rice needs 3,400 liters, one of lentils, only 50 liters, according to the Aquae Foundation.
If you also decide to reduce milk consumption, do not think that premature osteoporosis is guaranteed. Surely the corner supermarket sells tofu, yogurt and soy or oatmeal drinks enriched with calcium. Not forgetting that the cruciferous (Brussels sprouts, cauliflower …), almonds or figs (also worth the dehydrated) have not negligible amounts of the nutrient. "You don't have to send the message to eliminate dairy products or any other food altogether. What you should remember is that bone health is closely linked to non-smoking, lower alcohol consumption and greater physical activity. " If you have to choose, value jogging. Exercise with moderate impact punches the bones and helps them get stronger.
Alternatives to not get bored trying
If you only buy in the super corner, maybe the plan ends up being bland and repetitive, since the offer is limited. But there are plenty of varieties of vegetables, cereals and legumes out there. Did you know that there are purple carrots? What does kohlrabi have an attractive sweet taste and can replace french fries? Have you seen how many different quinoa grains there are? And wheat? Did you imagine that you can make vegetable chili with beans, bulgur wheat and cayenne? Approach producer markets, there are in all cities. In Madrid, for example, those of the Slaughterhouse or the Agricultural Chamber are famous. Contact groups of farmers, visit stores selling grain and grain in bulk. Buy yourself a recipe book. Or two. You will discover an exciting gastronomic universe without leaving your salary.
As you can see, there are several valid nutritional alternatives, and there is no problem if the change is gradual and gradual. One can be flexitarian (vegetarian who does not tear the clothes if you have to eat food of animal origin), pescetarian (no meat, but fish, eggs and dairy), vegetarian (with eggs and dairy) or ovolactovegetarian (characterized for having a diet exclusively based on vegetables). It is best to choose the option that causes less vital stress, and keep in mind that it is not about removing meat from the menu overnight. It is advisable to go little by little and without feeling guilty if one day you blow your tooth to some ham croquettes. This is done step by step.
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