What to Expect if You Stop Eating Meat

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Meat can be a rich source of protein and iron, but you might choose to ditch the chicken and beef for plant-based protein instead. Whether or ethical or environmental reasons, or perhaps for weight loss efforts, eating less meat, or cutting it out altogether, is becoming increasingly popular.

Yet, if you are going to go meatless, there are a few things you should know beforehand to prepare for the transition phase. Here’s what to expect in the short-term and long-term if you’re swapping beef for beans.

You Might Be Hungrier

If you are ditching animal protein for plant foods, you might not fill up as fast as you normally would from dense, hearty meat, which is thicker in texture and higher in fat and calories.

If you’re struggling to feel satiated off of more greens, nuts, seeds, and legumes, then add more protein and fat to the dish and increase portion size (since many greens are low in calories too!). Avocado is a great addition to make a meal more filling, for example. And if you’re a coffee drinker, you can get a nice boost of essential fats by adding a scoop of MCT or Coconut Oil Powder to further curb hunger pangs.

You Might Have Better Body Odor

That’s right—red meat might make your body smell…worse. According to a study in the journal Chemical Senses red meat might change the way your sweat smells, and make it stink more than if you were eating plants. It was a small study, so more research is needed to prove this totally true, but the researchers found that anecdotally, folks who were on a meat-free diet tended to smell better.

You Might Feel Weaker

When ditching meat, you might be deficient in protein, iron and vitamin B (especially B12, which is only found naturally in animal meat). This can make you feel tired and weaker, as you’re not getting the vitamins and iron you need to have more energy in the day. Anemia is a risk when you’re not getting enough vitamin B12 and iron, which can leave you feeling fatigued.

Yet, you can supplement with these nutrients, as well as vitamin D, if you’re worried about not getting enough from just plants alone. Studies show that those with low vitamin D levels have higher levels of lethargy, so supplementing could be a great way to keep intake up and feel less fatigued throughout the day.

You Might Improve Heart Health

This is more of a long-term effect, but if you lead a lifestyle without meat or a plant-based lifestyle that focuses on reducing meat intake in the week, you might notice lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and risk for heart disease and stroke. In fact, a study in 2019 found that ditching meat and choosing plants instead was linked to better cardiovascular health and lower risk of disease.

Another added benefit is that you will keep cholesterol down by lowering bad cholesterol and increasing good cholesterol from the consumption of more fruits and veggies. For example, there’s lots of research on the effects on cholesterol. A meta-analysis published in the journal Nutrition Reviews found that people who ate less meat and more plant-based foods had lower levels of total cholesterol.