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|The benefits of becoming a part-time vegetarian|
|By Kaiser Permanente|
Just like the next guy, you like a juicy steak. But you know a steady diet of red meat can raise your risk for heart attack and cancer. A recent study even shows a correlation between red meat consumption and premature death.
The good news is, that same study — published in the Archives of Internal Medicine — shows that cutting meat intake also cuts health risks. In other words, you don’t have to give up meat, cold turkey. Emboldened with healthy goals and new ideas, you may even become a part-time vegetarian.
First, it’s important to understand the health benefits of a vegetarian or semi-vegetarian diet. “A report that came out recently from the American Institute for Cancer Research estimates that 30 percent of cancers could be prevented by healthy diet and exercise,” says Audrey Sheridan, MD, a Kaiser Permanente Ob/Gyn.
Fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains have been shown to promote digestive and heart health while possibly protecting against serious diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s. “My training tells me that eating well is the basis of good health,” Dr. Sheridan says. “And my stomach tells me that it has to taste good or I won’t eat it.”
That leads to the “how-to.” Kaiser Permanente dietitian Sue Heikkinen, RD, outlines these easy steps:
Try Meatless Mondays - Each Monday, experiment with veggie kabobs, barbecued tofu, or bean-based main courses such as black bean chili. If it’s a meaty texture you miss, try crumbling veggie burgers in sloppy joes, spaghetti sauce, and chili or tap into the savory flavor of grilled Portobello mushrooms.
Make side dishes the main event - Top green salads with white beans and feta cheese or top pasta salads with toasted seeds, red peppers, and broccoli. Serve either with a wholegrain dinner roll, and voila, you have a meal.
Visit a farmers’ market - Dr. Sheridan, who also is the assistant manager at a Colorado farmers’ market, advocates for locally grown produce because it’s prettier, fresher and chock-full of nutrients and antioxidant properties — as opposed to the average produce item that travels 1,500 miles before it hits your plate.
Conduct edible experiments - Invest all that money you’re saving at the meat counter in balsamic vinegars, olive oils, or fresh herbs and spices. “Try things that create new flavors and liven up the meal,” Heikkinen suggests.
Flex a little - If the part-time vegetarian model works for you and your family, you can enjoy the occasional red meat, fish, or poultry entrée without guilt. “In the end, eating meatless isn’t so much about what you’re taking away as it is about what you’re adding — both in flavor and in food that protects your health,” Heikkinen says.
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