Should you eat plant based? The Santa Rosan staff weighs in.

Photo by Amy Genolio

Article by Jasmine Alvarez and Caycie Clayton

JASMINE: So, Caycie.

CAYCIE: So, Jasmine.

J: I think we should talk about plant based diets, and the benefits. EDUCATE ME!

C: Fun (said sarcastically)

J: I’m serious, lately I’ve been finding it very interesting.

C: Are you considering going vegetarian?

J: I don’t want to stop eating meat… but I’ve also been hearing a lot about how being vegetarian can benefit you in a bunch of different ways, so I’m torn…

C: Yeah, being vegetarian is definitely a way to start eating healthier. You lower your carbon footprint by consuming less meat, specifically beef, and can focus on gaining protein from more sustainable sources such as lentils and beans.

J: That’s what I am confused about… how can you gain certain nutrients that you need from eating meat? I understand that vegetables have many nutrients, but meat has sources such as protein, iron, zinc and other good things our body needs. 

C: That’s definitely one of the main concerns about switching to a plant-based diet, but there are numerous other food sources that you can get omegas, protein and vitamins from. For example, I incorporate flax seeds and chia seeds in my oatmeal every morning in order to add omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and protein. Legumes such as lentils and beans are also a great source of protein. Tofu and tempeh are often used for “fake” meat, and even nuts are rich in protein. There are countless other foods you can add to your diet to replace meat; and these substitutions bring more benefits without the drawbacks that meat has. 

J: I know that incorporating superfoods into your diet is the most ideal way to live, but eating meat has become such a normal part of my diet, therefore I am hesitant to cut it out. Also, I feel more ‘full’ when I eat a steak, rather than eating a salad for dinner. 

C: Well, there are still many adjustments that can be made to your diet to be healthier. If eaten correctly, meat can still be okay for the environment and yourself.

J: That’s my other thought, what if I cut back on my meat consumption? If so, what is a healthy amount? I feel like there are so many extreme ways to improve your diet, but there is nothing in the middle… 

C: I think that cutting back meat consumption is a great way to start. There isn’t a set amount of meat that’s “healthy” because everyone has a different body and different nutritional requirements for themselves. For me, I like to think about how our bodies were designed to process food. Back in hunter and gathering times, people would only eat meat occasionally depending on what they were able to catch. I feel like for starters, cutting it back to once or twice a week would be great. 

J: Okay that sounds good and all, but meat is a huge part of my diet. Will my body react a certain way if I cut back so drastically? 

C: There shouldn’t be any negative effects. 

Doing anything that can cut back on your meat consumption, particularly beef, would help both the environment and your own health. But that’s not always the most realistic, so do what you are able to, and just try to be aware of what you’re consuming. 

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