Ask Mr. Pedometer and Friends…

August 21, 2019

Q:  Mr. Pedometer, what do you think about a meatless diet?  I have heard that plant proteins are better for your health and provide nutrients lacking from our normal diets but should we eliminate meat?

A: We have all heard the warnings to eat less red meat. Many people have gone farther than that and get some or all of their protein from plant proteins because they are better for your health.  Consumer Reports on Health (CR.org/cronhealth) reports in their September edition that “only 5 percent of Americans call themselves vegetarians.”  However, more and more of people are shifting to getting at least some of our protein from plants.  Here’s why:

EVEN SMALL CHANGES HELP – “Replacing even just a few meaty meals with meatless ones Plant based protiens that are better for your health at World Walk to Wellness Blog can lead to improvements in health, such as lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels and less fat around your middle.  (Large waistlines are associated with a higher risk of diabetes and heart disease.)  A 2016 study of 131,342 people found that trading just 3 percent of calories for an equivalent amount of plant protein resulted in a 12 percent lower risk of dying from any cause.  If plant protein replaced processed red meat – such as deli meat or hot dogs – it equated to a 34 percent lower risk of death.”

PLANTS CAN PROVIDE ADEQUATE PROTEIN – Foods like beans, nuts, and soy are the most concentrated protein sources, according to Dana Hunnes, Ph.D., senior dietitian at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. “Protein is essential for keeping your muscles strong – something that becomes even more important as you get older, because we do tend to lose some muscle mass as we age,” Hunnes says.  And a 2019 study found that protein – especially from plants – helps control the low-level inflammation that increases with age and contributes to disease.  Older people should aim for at least 0.6 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day – about 90 grams for someone who weighs 150 pounds.  (Exercise is also key for maintaining muscle).”

PLANT PROTEINS PROVIDE EVEN MORE –  Fiber from plant protein “can help to lower cholesterol, regulate blood sugar, lower your risk of colorectal cancer, and prevent weight gain….Plant-based diets are also rich in potassium and antioxidants….Potassium helps to regulate blood pressure – something that becomes increasingly important with age. (More than 60 percent of people 60 and older have high blood pressure, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.)” Antioxidants may help prevent cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s. “A diet rich in plant-based foods helps provide a number of important nutrients that are lacking in the typical American diet,” says Penny Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., R.D., distinguished professor of nutrition at Penn State University in University Park, Pennsylvania.

WHERE TO START? – Eliminating processed meat and limiting red meat is a good goal, the article suggests: Try to go meatless one or two days a week.    “The key is to experiment until you find healthy plant-based foods you love,” says Kris-Etherton.  “Then it won’t feel like a sacrifice to skip the meat.”

Next time you share a meal out with your vegetarian friends, why not try what they order?  You may discover that limiting red meat intake is not necessarily a burden. If you find you enjoy foods that provide plant-based proteins that are better for your health, you see timproved health at your check ups with your doctor.

EAT RIGHT, MOVE MORE, AND SLEEP WELL TO BE WELL.