Diet

This was supposed to be a big year for America’s meat industry according to Time.com. As recently as late February, a USDA livestock analyst predicted record-setting red meat and poultry production as economic growth and low unemployment boosted demand for animal protein.

Then came COVID-19. By the end of April, the pandemic changed the economic and agricultural landscape so drastically that Tyson Foods, one of America’s biggest meat producers, warned in a full-page New York Times ad that the “food supply chain is breaking.”

America’s farms are still packed with animals raised for meat production. The problem is that the virus has made it increasingly hard to turn those animals into store-ready packs of pork chops or ground beef. That’s because Tyson and many other meat processing companies across the country have paused operations at a number of plants where workers have tested positive for COVID-19. According to the USDA’s weekly report from April 27, beef production was down nearly 25% year-over-year, while and pork production was down 15%.

Many Americans aren’t waiting for a statistical turn and have considered just giving up meat altogether. The alternative meatless diet trend has inspired new dietary concerns out of necessary and toward better health.

There are many plant-based diets, but the most beneficial ones underscore specific foods related to healthy heart advantages such as vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, fruits, and healthy oils like olive oil. When you eliminate meat from your diet you run the risk of having low iron.

Here are a few diets that have been studied for their effect on heart health.

Mediterranean Diet

This diet is based on the gastronomy of people living near the Mediterranean Sea where studies show people in this region have a lower rate of cardiovascular diseases.  Foods attributed to this diet are high in beans, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nut and seeds and olive oil.  The foundation of this diet is plant-based meals created around vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts, beans and whole grains and here is modest consumption of fish, poultry, dairy and occasional red meat. Along with these mainstays of the Mediterranean Diet, olive oil is an essential source of added healthy fat that has been shown to lower total cholesterol. Moreover, use herbs and spices native to this region to enhance meals and this should help to cut down on the use of sodium.

DASH Diet

Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) is designed to treat and prevent hypertension and to reduce blood pressure without

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diet

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medication.  The premise behind the DASH Diet is to reduce your sodium intake and eat foods rich in nutrients that lower blood pressure like magnesium, potassium and calcium.  This diet promotes large amounts of vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy with a modest portions of poultry, nuts, fish and whole grains. The standard DASH Diet allows people to stay within the 2,300 mg of sodium per day as recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Pescatarian Diet

This diet is mostly plant-based with the exception of seafood as well as nuts, seed, whole grains, eggs, dairy, and beans.  Pescatarians don’t consume any meat including chicken, pork, beef, lamb or turkey. They will eat a wide variety of seafood such as salmon, sardines and herring, which are a good source of protein, like meat, but without the negative cardiovascular effects.  Seafood is low in saturated fats and some are rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

But, as is the case with most things, you can consume too much.  Seafood such as tuna and swordfish can contain mercury, a heavy metal that can have an adverse effect on your health.  If considering this diet, consider fish that has lower mercury like salmon, lake trout, sardines, mackerel and herring.

Vegetarian Diet

Consumers of a vegetarian diet eat no animals.  They eat fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, beans and seeds.  Some vegetarians do add eggs and dairy to their meals, however, and are known as lacto-ovo vegetarians. Individuals who eliminate eggs are considered lacto-vegetarians. Others who eat eggs and delete dairy from their diet are considered ovo-vegetarians.  Contrary to what some believe, vegetarians have a wide spectrum in meal choices.

Vegan Diet

Being a vegan is not only a diet, but a lifestyle.  Vegans eat no animals or animal byproduct, which includes eggs, dairy and honey.   They also don’t wear any leather or, fur or use any cosmetics that are associated with animals. Their diets usually consist of fruits, vegetables, tofu, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, herbs and spices.

Changing to a plant-based diet will take some discipline, but if you are committed, you can leave meat behind and become one of the millions who have put eating animals in their rear-view mirror.

Moleska Smith from doctors.org and Time.com contributed to the compilation of this report

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