Saturday, September 24, 2011

0 Americans eat too much meat...why should we eat less?

As Americans, we eat way too much meat. We consume three times as much meat as the rest of the world, twice as much as is recommended and nearly 25% of what we eat is processed (hot dogs, sausage, deli meat, etc.). Eating too much meat can contribute to cardiovascular disease, kidney disease and cancer. The extra protein that we eat does not get stored as protein either, it gets converted and stored as carbohydrates and FAT! Our love affair with meat (and of course processed foods), probably has something to do with the current obesity problem in America. Consuming an excess amount of meat can also cause a loss of calcium in bones and cause osteoporosis. As a side note, eating too much salt and drinking too many sodas also depletes the calcium in your body.

According to the USDA most men should consume only 6 oz of protein per day and most women should only consume 5 oz of protein per day – you read that right, that's PER DAY – not per meal as we are led to believe. You might be surprised as to what constitutes an ounce of protein. Here's an example from the USDA website - “In general, 1 ounce of meat, poultry or fish, ¼ c cooked beans, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter or ½ ounce of nuts or seeds can be considered as one ounce equivalent in the protein food group.” There are a lot of other ways to add protein to your diet too, certain grains like quinoa, legumes like lentils, tofu and even vegetables like broccoli. The USDA recommends that you eat seafood as your protein at least twice a week.

Energy and efficiency wise, meat is an inefficient and wasteful source of protein too. It takes about 20 pound of grain to produce 1 pound of beef. Every year, livestock consume about half of all the grains and oilseeds that are grown in the United States, thereby consuming more than 14 billion pounds of fertilizers and more than 174 million pounds of pesticides. If we cut down on our meat intake that extra grain could feed all of the starving people in the world.  So why not cut back on your meat intake, maybe have a meatless Monday or start from there and continue cutting meat out of your diet – you'll be doing your body a favor, helping the environment and saving money! Vegetarians & Flexitarians (those people who are not vegetarians but who don't eat meat everyday) have fewer health issues than the average American.

My cousin, Robynn, is a vegan and sent me a really good recipe for chickpea and quinoa pilaf (I believe that she got the recipe from Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook). I've made it myself and love it! I don't know what she eats it with, but I've paired it with steamed green beans and a salad, it is delicious. Give it a try...

Chickpea and Quinoa Pilaf
2 Tbl olive oil
1 sm onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp ground cumin
1 Tbl coriander seeds, crushed
several pinches of black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 Tbl tomato paste
1 c quinoa
2 c cooked or 1 15 oz can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
2 c vegetable broth

In a medium size pot over medium heat saute the onions for 7 minutes, add the garlic and saute for 2 minutes longer. Add the tomato paste and all of the seasonings and saute for one minute. Add the quinoa and saute for 2 minutes. Add the chickpeas and broth, cover and bring to a boil. Once the mixture is boiling, lower the heat to very low, cover and cook for about 18 minutes* or until the quinoa has absorbed all of the liquid. Stir occasionally and fluff with a fork when done. Serves 4-6.

* I find that it takes about 30 minutes instead of 18 minutes for the quinoa to absorb all of the liquid.

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