The Healthy Food Guide team believe that making small diet and lifestyle changes brings the best long-term gains. We look at the science behind the headlines and promote a balanced way of eating.

Cutting down on red meat and including more meat-free days into your week could make an incredible difference to your health. To make things simple, we’ve compiled five reasons why eating less meat and moving towards a predominantly plant-based diet is significantly better for you…

1. It reduces your cancer risk

Studies link a high intake of red and processed meats to an increased risk of colorectal cancer. Recent US research published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine suggests people who eat a vegetarian diet have a 22% lower risk of this cancer.

2. It can aid weight loss

Around 26% of UK adults are obese and a further 41% of men and 33% of women are overweight. Carrying excess weight increases our risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, certain cancers and arthritis. ‘Plant-based diets tend to be less energy dense so we can eat more and feel fuller,’ says HFG dietitian Juliette Kellow.

* Swap 125g regular beef mince for a mix of 75g lean beef mince, 75g mushrooms and 50g green lentils and you’ll have 60% more on your plate, will reduce your calorie intake by a third and your total fat intake by over two-thirds, plus you’ll boost your fibre intake threefold.

3. It can help lower cholesterol

Figures from the latest National Diet And Nutrition Survey reveal that meat products provide 24% of the saturates in the diets of 19 to 64-year-olds and dairy products a further 22%. ‘Plant foods are typically low in saturated fat and some (nuts, seeds, avocados and vegetable oils) are high in unsaturated fats, which help to maintain healthy cholesterol levels,’ says Juliette. ‘Eating more fruit, veg, pulses and grains provides a valuable mix of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and soluble fibre, which all work together to keep our heart and circulatory system healthy.’

4. It can save you money

It’s possible to get your five-a-day (and a large quantity of low-fat, low-calorie, filling food) for a fraction of the cost of a steak.

5. It’s eco-friendly

Supply and production of food (including land use) accounts for 19% of UK greenhouse gas emissions. Put into context, the production of 10g beef protein releases the same quantity of greenhouse gases as 162g wheat protein (the amount in 46 slices of bread, 1.4kg uncooked pasta or 22 bowls of branflakes). The figures speak for themselves.

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