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Remember the line from the movie "My Big fat greek wedding, when Toula announces her fiance is a vegetarian and  Aunt Voula responds: "what do you mean he don't eat no meat? ....Oh, that's okay. I make lamb."

Most African believe a meal without rice and without meat is simply a snack. 

Telling an African to give up meat is like telling a traditional African housewife to stop offering her husband food - It's just not done.

Africans love meat! A meal without meat or rice is a meal not worth eating. Animal protein - goat, chicken, fish, beef or pork - is a common feature on many African lunch tables. In fact, not offering meat at a family meal is a signal of a family in financial distress. Meat on the dinner table - goat, cow, lamb or pork is a symbol of abundance and being well-to-do. Even here at Ro-ZBites our best selling dish has been our pepper pork. 

However, as we consider our health and the environment, there is a large body of evidence that indicates that diets high in meat may be detrimental to good health and the environment.

Studies show that in addition to emitting excess carbon during commercial production of meat proteins, meat-heavy diets contribute to excess weight, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol,  heart disease, some types of cancer and other health concerns.

On the contrary, plant-based diets have proved to have numerous health benefits including boosting the immune system to prevent chronic disease.

So how do we balance a healthy lifestyle with our African culture? Luckily, one does not have to give up meat entirely. Giving up meat, even on one day a week, can yield great health and environmental benefits.

Meatless Mondays

If you are ready to get healthier, consider joining the “Meatless Monday” movement.

What is “Meatless Monday?” “Meatless Monday” is a worldwide campaign that encourages people to give up meat every Monday so as to improve their health and reduce their carbon footprint.

A part of the “Healthy Monday Campaign” initiated by health professionals in the USA, Meatless Monday stems from the notion that if you start the week with healthy intentions, you are more likely to stick with them. As the first day of the week, Monday is a great day to commit to health and start afresh.

The movement’s guidelines are simple – do not eat meat on Monday. What are the health benefits of going meatless? Their benefits are bountiful and well documented. Some of these include:

  • Lower cancer risk. Both red meat and processed foods have been linked to cancer while diets high in fruits and vegetables have been demonstrated to reduce risk.
  • Reduced heart disease risk. Artery clogging saturated fat and cholesterol found in meat and meat products are replaced with healthy polyunsaturated fats from nuts, vegetable oils, and seeds.
  • Fights and controls diabetes: A Harvard University (USA) study concluded that replacing one serving of red meat per day with healthier proteins such as nuts and legumes significantly reduced an individual’s risk of becoming diabetic.
  • In addition, non-meat diets are high in fiber which helps control blood sugars. Weight control: When cooked without excess added fat and with quality meat replacers such as beans, lentils, soy and whole grains, meatless meals can be lower in calories than their meat containing counterparts.
  • In addition, the high fiber content of plant foods helps control weight by increasing satiety thereby reducing the overall amount of food eaten.
  • Improved brain health: Berries and nuts common in plant- powered meals contain antioxidants that help the brain to keep functioning well.
  • Healthy gut: The high fiber content of plants helps keep the gut working well and promotes regular bowel movements. Strong immune system: A healthy gut produces healthy bacteria that fight off disease.

Do Something for The Environment

Non-health benefits: It is not just about improving your health, each meatless meal you eat reduces your carbon footprint, water usage, and fossil fuel dependence. In addition, since meat is relatively expensive, going meatless can yield significant financial savings over time.

Ready to join the movement? It’s very easy; don’t eat meat on Monday. To clarify, “meat” means “all animal flesh.” That means no beef, chicken, turkey, goat, fish, lamb, rabbit, pork, grass eater etc. on Monday.

Replace these with healthy plant protein foods such as soya (soy), beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds. Animal products such as dairy and eggs may be used but if you can eliminate them completely, go for it. That’s all you need to do. Simple steps for great rewards.

Can’t do Mondays? Pick another day; the benefits will still be the same on other days of the week.  

Can’t skip meat for a whole day? Try replacing meat on 3 meals throughout the course of the week. Or try a green drink

Meatless Monday movement is a global campaign and at present, South Africa is the only nation representing Africa. Skip the meat on Monday and help put your nation on the Meatless Monday map.

Need a little meatless meal inspiration? Check out some African recipes from our friends at Radiant Health Magazine.

Here’s to your health!

Sources: Portions of this article was contributed by Cordialis Msora-Kasago via RADIANT HEALTH magazine.