These days, a great many health-conscious people are looking to plant-based diets, such as those common in Asia and the Mediterranean, as an alternative to the traditional American “meat and potatoes” lifestyle. What do these diets consist of? And, what are the benefits of cutting down on meat?
Mediterranean and Asian Diets
Asia is a huge, culturally diverse part of the world. The Mediterranean region, while not as large as Asia, also has a great deal of ethnic, religious, and cultural variation. Of course, each culture in both of these regions has its own culinary traditions, as well.
That being said, there are many dietary similarities, not only among the cultures of each region, but also among the two regions themselves.
Both Mediterranean and Asian diets tend to eschew large, western-style portions of meat in favor of a wide variety of plant-based foods, such as veggies, nuts, legumes, and whole grains.
The consumption of red meat is a relative rarity in these cultures, but they both consume fish, which has nearly the same protein content as beef, but contains much less saturated fat. And, while beef contains high levels of LDLs, fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which actually help lower LDL levels in the blood.
In addition to having certain dietary similarities, Asia and the Mediterranean have something else in common: shockingly low rates of heart disease, fewer incidences of cancer, and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
What’s Wrong With Red Meat?
Conventional wisdom regarding red meat used to be that it was great for you. It contains plenty of protein, is rich in iron and zinc, and is an excellent source of vitamin B12. Of course, our bodies need all of these to stay healthy.
But, the body of research suggesting that a diet rich in red meat may not be the healthiest way to get these essential nutrients keeps growing. Further, many modern studies suggest that eating red meat may be detrimental to one’s physical health.
How so? Well, research data has indicated those who regularly consume red meat are more likely to develop heart disease, due to the high levels of cholesterol present in their diets. Many researchers have also implicated over-consumption of red meat as a risk factor for certain cancers, such as colorectal and stomach cancer.
And protein, while essential to many of the body’s processes can cause problems, if consumed in excess. Too much protein causes an accumulation of ketones, toxic compounds that must be flushed from the body by the kidneys. Because the kidneys are working overtime, the body gets dehydrated, which is bad for physical health.
Of course, some studies, especially those funded by trade groups like the American Meat Institute, tend to contraindicate these findings, but they also have a vested interest in doing so.
[Photo Credit: jessicasrecipebag]