Heart and Vascular Care
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Whether from a co-worker, friend, or online, you’ve probably heard about Meatless Mondays and questioned whether it would actually make a difference for your health.
It might feel like giving up meat one day a week isn’t enough to reap the benefits of a vegetarian diet, but Dr. Harvey Hahn, a cardiologist, says that it can lower your risk for several health issues—especially with the heart.
Are Meatless Mondays enough?
Dr. Hahn says you don’t have to go fully vegetarian to see a difference in your health.
Instead, try swapping your usual meals for meat-free options one day a week. This reduces your meat intake by about 15%, which can significantly lower your cholesterol and blood pressure. And because meat is a calorie-dense food, participating in Meatless Mondays makes it easier to lose or manage weight, greatly improving your overall health.
Additionally, eating more fruits and vegetables means you get vitamins, minerals, and fiber that you won’t find in meat. Dr. Hahn recommends eating 5 to 10 servings, roughly 2.5 to 5 cups, of fruits and vegetables a day.
The health effects of eating meat
Most meats are high in cholesterol, saturated fats, and calories. Red meat, such as beef and pork, can also cause inflammation.
“All of these things will increase the risk for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes,” Dr. Hahn says.
Over time, these conditions can lead to strokes, heart attacks, and heart failure. While exercise is important for heart health, reducing your meat consumption will make the biggest impact.
“Diet is about 85% of your health,” Dr. Hahn says.
Some meats are better than others
On the days you eat meat, swap red meat for chicken or turkey. Fish is even better, which has significantly less saturated fat.
Whether you follow Meatless Mondays or not, Dr. Hahn encourages people to stay away from processed meats, such as deli meat and hotdogs. These are often packaged with high amounts of salt or preservatives and are even considered a Group 1, or known, carcinogen by the World Health Organization—the same classification as tobacco cigarettes.
“One serving a day increases your risk of cancer by about 18%,” Dr. Hahn says. Additionally, red meat is classified as a Group 2A, or probable, carcinogen.
Health is personal
When it comes to health, it’s not about being perfect. If adjusting your diet stresses you out, focus on one meal, one day at a time. Small changes can make big differences.
Have questions? A primary care provider can help.Find a provider
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