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Eat less meat and be healthier, and save the planet

There’s been headlines about the impact of consuming meat in the last few weeks. It all started off with a UN communique on the environmental impacts of meat production, then unending riders on the health impacts of eating meat. According to undisputed scientific data, the processes involved in getting meat onto your plate are too damaging to the environment. And if that’s not bad enough, the negative effects on your health are devastating.

It’s no doubt that meat is tasty, and its rich in proteins and other micro-nutrients that are essential for your health. Meat can be prepared in unlimited number of ways to even make it more delicious and irresistible. Think of sizzling and succulent roasts, buggers, stews, smoked cuts, processed barbeque packs, and all other varieties of eatable meats. It’s difficult for most mortals to resist meats, unless you are a seasoned vegetarian, or a strict vegan.

Well, the medical facts are clear, the more meat you eat, the more you predispose yourself to ill health. Meat contains less desirable fats, cholesterol and even chemical products associated with cattle rearing, meat processing and storage. Moreover, how you cook your meat matters too. High cooking temperatures associated with roasts and barbeques can initiate chemical changes that are damaging to health. Thus comes the link with cardiovascular disease, metabolic disease, cancers and other chronic conditions.

What about the environment? Even though some dispute it, the fact that the earth’s climate has been changing over the years is a given. Extreme weather conditions are increasingly being experienced globally. Human activities have been blamed, and more so the ever rising levels of so called greenhouse gases. And guess what’s the largest single emitter of greenhouse gases? You guessed right, it’s the process of cattle rearing to constantly feed the insatiable need for global meat demands.

Climate change has a lot to do with your health. Think of all the human lives affected by unending droughts, heat waves, flooding and other weather-related infectious conditions. So the ripple effect of meat consumption goes beyond your individual health.

But what’s the alternative? Surely not all of us want to be vegetarians. The most practical way out is to deliberately consume less meat. You can substitute your meaty meals for more plant based foods, which are equally rich in proteins and other micro-nutrients. If you miss the taste, you can look up to meat substitutes which are almost indistinguishable from the real stuff. Two US companies are already doing booming business with alternate green meats. There’s even an Israel company already producing lab meats cultured from a single cow cell, with zero greenhouse gas emissions!

A healthier and longer life is a combination of many factors. Less meat consumption is a boost to your health, and by extension to the environment.

Dr Alfred Murage is a Consultant Gynecologist and Fertility Specialist. amurage@mygyno.co.ke

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