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Go Meatless for Your Health and the Planet’s


Go Meatless for Your Health and the Planet’s

Why not “go meatless” for at least one day each week?  Meatless Monday?  Good nutrition means eating foods containing protein, along with a balance of carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals.  This is true for children and adults. But some proteins are healthier than others, healthier for our bodies and for the natural environment.

To explain this, I am sharing ideas from an excellent website,, edited by Dr Michael Martin of the University of California School Medicine in San Francisco.  Dr. Martin, who founded the non-profit “Physicians Against Red Meat”, urges health professionals to advocate for meatless hospitals and homes.

Your doctor and Mother Nature would likely rate foods similarly. It is fascinating that the foods best for health are usually the best for the environment.  Topping list are grains, beans (including soy products), nuts, vegetables, and fruits.  Vegetables and fruits are relatively low in protein but terrific for their health and environmental benefits.  The next best food category includes fish and shellfish; high in protein and offering the healthiest types of fats.   In the third category are dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, cheese, eggs, and poultry. The worst are the “red meats”, those derived from four-legged animals such as cows, pigs, sheep and goats.

All proteins are chains of smaller molecules called “amino acids”.  We need a mixture of different amino acids in our diet in order for our bodies to have the building blocks to synthesize our own proteins.  We get our dietary proteins from a variety of foods in order to have all the amino acid types that our cells require. 

Interestingly, we do not need any “red meat” to get the right amino acids.  Plus, red meats are high in the worst types of fats and lead to heart disease, diabetes, dementia, and even cancer.  In 2017, the World Health Organization went even further to list processed meats, such as salamis, bacon, prosciutto, and cured ham, as carcinogenic.  They may taste great but you really want to avoid these!  Switching to wiser choices can make a big difference. tells us that, “the Harvard School of Public Health studied the diets of 150,000 health professional, and concluded that replacing red meat with fish, legumes, nuts, and whole grains decreases all-cause mortality by 8-9%.”  (Reference 1).

Dietary protein can be particularly dangerous for people with advanced liver problems, kidney diseases and certain rare metabolic disorders.  These patients usually are instructed to restrict the amount of protein in the diet and often to avoid animal protein.  A vegetarian diet can greatly improve patient quality of life, and even survival.

“TWENTY servings of vegetables creates fewer greenhouse gas emissions than ONE serving of beef.”

Let’s look at the impact of foods on the global climate.  Every step in food production produces climate warming greenhouse gases:  plowing fields, using fertilizers, raising animals, transporting foods, packaging, cooking and disposal.  The worst are the greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide, with the largest sources of those coming from 4-footed livestock animals.  Methane –which is also the chief component of natural gas that is burned to make electricity– is 86-fold more heat-trapping than carbon dioxide over twenty years.  The impact is enormous:  livestock production around the world is responsible for 18% of ALL global greenhouse gases!

       The bottom line is that 20 servings of vegetables creates fewer greenhouse gas emissions than 1 serving of beef.  (Reference 2)

          Here are suggestions from Dr. Martin:

  • Eat meat – just less of it. Choose fish, shrimp, and poultry.
  • Never consume red meat or processed meats (salami, bacon, cured ham).
  • Try Meatless Mondays for your family and yourself.
  • There are great, tasty protein alternatives: beans, lentils, peas, soy products, nuts, and seeds.
  • Experiment with fun vegetarian and vegan recipes.

“Going Meatless” is one of My Green Doctor’s “Tip of the Week” ideas.   Every healthcare office can adopt one of our tips each week to share in conversation, in a brochure, as a waiting room poster, or in the patient’s printed check-out instructions.  These tips are great for patient health, can save your patients lots of money, make for a cleaner environment, and support a healthier climate. 

You can see the full list at


Todd L Sack, MD FACP

Editor, My Green Doctor


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Reference 1:  Pan, A., et al., Red meat consumption and mortality: results from 2 prospective cohort studies. Arch Intern Med, 2012. 172(7): p. 555-63.

Reference 2:


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