The purpose of this post is not to sway you to become a vegetarian. It is to educate you on what you are consuming and to let you know why going-meatless on occassion can not only be great for your health but your walletbook.
Energetics is a study of how energy flows and is utilized between cycles or entitites. For our purpose of examining energetics and how it relates to food systems we will look at energetics and how it is cycled through trophic levels (or various levels of energy consumption such as herbivores and carnivores). The primary source of energy entering our system (Earth) is from the sun. The only food directly created from solar energy are plants via photosynthesis. Beyond plant production and up trophic levels there is a great energy loss between each level through energetic cycling processes (about a 90% loss between each trophic level).
The more efficient way to obtain energy is from plant-based nutrition but that does not always sound fun given the way the U. S. diet is accustomed to be primarily meat-based. However is the meat-based diet the healthiest for you? Energetically it makes sense to eat low on the food chain however as people concerned with fitness we know that a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet helps us work towards lean-massed bodies faster than almost any other diets.
Two questions to ask regarding meat-based diets and health are:
What is the quality of the meat you consume? Unfortunately with numerous government-based subsidies our animal stocks are now fed unnatural chemical-infused, corn-based diets and USDA regulations have relaxed with facility inspections in the last 20 years leading to lower-quality meat and an increase in food-borne illnesses in our food supply. If eating meat try to get organic, pasture, open-range fed from facilities you can trust.
What is meat contributing to the health of you and your family? We are accustomed to it and it tastes good when cooked right, but what does it really give you? Meat in moderation seems to be the most sensible form of utilizing it since in excessive quantities it can increase cholesterol (especially with beef) and contribute to endrocrine disruption. Watch portion sizes.
With all of us in the Mamavation program we have a beautiful concern with our health and well-being. It may interest you to know that the healthiest and happiest lifestyles on the planet do not subscribe to meat-based diets. An example are the Blue Zones where several communities around the world that have a higher quality of life than the conventional U. S. quality of life were examined and one big factor to longevity and health was their diet.
Watch the piece from Good Morning America where they spent a year transforming a Minnesota town into a Blue Zone town that included a diet overhaul. This was a year before Jamie Oliver began his Food Revolution in West Virginia but as you can see there are many sentiments echoed between the two.
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Global diets that lead to longer longevity than conventional U. S. diets include Mediterranean diets, French diets, and Japanese diets where there is more of an emphasis on produce, grains, fermented products, and very little meat.
Please see the Blue Zones Eating Well Page for more reading on altering your diet in this way.
Not only does reducing meat consumption in your diet lead to better health but on paper it is better for your wallet. Think back to the trophic levels and energy required to produce plants. That is natural. The fact that you can get a 99 cent hamburger from drive thru should really make you question the quality of subsidized meat that would make something so energetically expensive be so cheap for the consumer. Do you really want that cheap meat in your body or your childrens bodies?
My challenge to you is to go meatless at least once a week for dinner. If you need ideas please visit Meatless Monday which is an initiative to get people to consume 15% less meat by going meatless one day a week for planetary and personal health. The initiative is via John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Their goals for this are to reduce heart disease, limit cancer risks, fight diabetes, curb obesity, live longer, improve diet, cut weekly budget, curb healthcare spending, reduce carbon footpring, minimize water usage, and reduce fuel dependency. All these goals seem to summarize what Mamavation and this series of Eco-Challenges have been all about. Know something as small as a small diet alteration can have HUGE impacts on your personal and planetary health.
-kia a.k.a. @bodhi_bear