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Headlines are bursting with controversy over whether or not we should eat animal products while food product companies are making millions from new plant-based burgers, coconut-milk ice cream, and jackfruit tacos. Deciding whether to limit animal products or eliminate them entirely is confusing, so how do we know whether or not it’s right to eat animal products?
What are we talking about, specifically?
First, we need to know that animal products include meats (beef, lamb, pork), poultry (chicken, turkey, eggs), seafood (fish, shellfish), dairy (milk, cheese, yogurts), and food products containing whey, casein, or collagen (often found in protein powders and protein bars). Animal proteins provide all the essential amino acids (the building blocks of proteins), along with most B vitamins (vitamins B12 and B6, riboflavin, niacin), iron, zinc, selenium. Certain products like dairy and eggs can provide additional nutrients such as calcium, phosphorus, choline, and vitamin A. Fatty fish like salmon provide omega-3 fatty acids beneficial to brain and heart health. Unfortunately, many of these great sources of vitamins and minerals come with loads of saturated fat and lack dietary fiber which is known to have negative health implications.
The benefits of plant-based foods
Plant-based foods like soy products (edamame, tofu, tempeh), nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, fruits and veggies, and whole grains generally have significant amounts of fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals all contributing to lower risk for certain cancers, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, mental disorders and more. Plant-based proteins may be limited in certain amino acids, but are likely to be matched with another food that fills the need. Because of the natural fiber and water-based make-up, plant foods help us feel satisfied and help us with weight management.
With all things considered…
Animal products play a major impact on more than just our health. Concerns for the environment, treatment of animals, overall sustainability, and many other reasons play a huge role in this decision.
When choosing to purchase animal products, avoid factory farming.
Either talk directly to the farmer about their practices or look for labels that confirm positive agricultural practices like 100% grass-fed or wild-caught. Simply limiting the number of animal products consumed in your regular diet can reduce climate change and help meet the rising global food demands. The many health, ethical, and moral reasons for choosing a vegan lifestyle or simply limiting animal products is a big decision, so continue reading the facts in the actionable steps below before deciding.
Read the longer version
To learn more, read these articles reviewed by our professionals to be the best on the topic: Read up on Harvard Health’s reasons to Eat More Plants, Fewer Animals. Learn more from Jennifer Troupe, RD with Should I Eat A Plant-Based Diet? Get the facts on beef nutrition with these FAQs and common animal care practices on today’s U.S. ranches.
Make a plan
Whichever lifestyle you choose, plan your meals and snacks carefully to include a variety of foods and all your daily nutrients. It’s okay to be flexible in your choice to consume or not consume animal products, too!
Monitor how you feel on your eating plan and make any adjustments needed. Everybody is different and reacts differently to the amount of animal products eaten, so make sure you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs to feel happy!
About the Author
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)
Shannon is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Health Coach, Certified Personal Trainer, and Group Fitness Instructor with over 5 years of experience working in Corporate Wellness specializing in overall health, nutrition, and fitness. Throughout her journey to becoming an RDN, she grew her passion for culinary nutrition by teaching and developing hands-on cooking classes for all ages in the community.
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