#meatfreeweek pretty much does what it says on the tin. As a pescatarian, I am pretty much there already. So should you be joining in for health reasons?
The argument for:
1. It encourages you to think about the quantity of meat you consume. High meat consumption, especially red meat, has been linked to increased cardiovascular disease and colon cancer. Therefore, in the UK it is currently recommended to limit your red meat consumption to ‘moderate.’ If you consume over 90g per day, it is recommended to cut this down to below 70g.
2. It encourages you to be creative with your cooking; a well balanced vegetarian diet includes eggs, beans and pulses as protein sources. Adding them to stews and casseroles is not only delicious but also extremely cheap. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is a big advocate of using vegetarianism to encourage yourself to be creative in the kitchen. He is, not exactly coincidentally, one of my all-time heroes in the world of celebrity chefs.
The argument against:
1. Vegetarian diets are not necessarily healthy. It is true that they often focus more heavily on vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans and pulses, but they must be well planned. Vegetarian diets are associated with lower risks of heart disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, certain cancers and lower cholesterol levels. This could be because such diets are lower in saturated fat, contain fewer calories and more fibre and phytonutrients/phytochemicals (these can have protective properties) than non-vegetarian diets. Equally, this association could be because people who choose a vegetarian diet may be less likely to smoke or drink heavily and more likely to exercise. Vegetarian diets may contain large amounts of cheese (high in salt and fat), lack certain vitamins and minerals such as zinc, iron and B12 and contain inadequate amounts of protein. When I chose to become pescatarian I had to put effort into making sure that I had protein at every meal (something I still do not always achieve) and didn’t eat too much cheese (which I love!).
2. Any health choice you make should be long-term. Giving up meat for one week is not likely to change your weight, cholesterol or blood pressure (etc. etc.).
Making sure I get in some protein (from the soya milk) and fat (from the nuts)
On balance, I think #meatfreeweek is a positive change, but more for the environment and animal welfare (the reasons I became a vegetarian) than for health. If you feel inspired, get cooking! Please check out my vegetarian and vegan recipes…