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Swapping 100 calories of meat for a veggie substitute could help you live longer

Whether you’re an ardent meat eater or not, we know that loading up on fruit and veg is good for us.

Now, a new study has found that replacing a tiny amount of meat with a vegetarian substitute may have a dramatic effect on our life expectancy.

Replacing just 100 calories-worth of meat a day with plant protein has been linked to a 50 per cent decreased risk of death.

For context, 100 calories is one and a half rashers of streaky bacon, three fine slices of turkey or a very small piece of steak.

Scientists from the Harvard School of Public Health looked at the diets of 37,000 American adults and got them to replace just 5% of their total meat calories a day with plant protein from nuts, beans and whole grains.

They collected 24-hour food diaries from eight cycles of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 1999 and 2014. Causes of death over that period were noted and the researchers were able to compare protein sources in the diet to the risk of dying.

They found that those who ate the most plant protein were 27% less likely to die of any cause compared to those who ate the least plant protein, and were 29% less likely to die from coronary heart disease.

Replacing 5% of daily calories from animal sources with plant protein was linked to a nearly 50% decrease of dying from any cause. In fact, replacing just 2% of daily calories with plant-based food was associated with a 32% lower risk of death.

Dr Zhilei Shan, who led the study, said it’s no longer enough to simply cut out red meat – it’s about what you choose to replace red meat with.

She said: ‘Healthy plant proteins… include other beneficial nutrients such as healthy fats, antioxidant vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals (compounds derived from plants), which have been associated with lower risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers.’

Last year, a major global study published in The Lancet found that poor diet kills 90,000 Brits a year – with a lack of whole grains, nuts and fruits being the biggest triggers.

Meanwhile, a 2017 study by Imperial College London found that eating more fruits and veg may prevent millions of premature deaths.

The results revealed that even a daily intake of 200g of plants was associated with a 16% reduced risk of heart disease, an 18% reduced risk of stroke, and a 13% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

Worried that 200g sounds like a lot? Don’t be – it’s the equivalent of two and a half portions. Scientists found that even eating that small amount was associated with 4% reduced risk in cancer risk, and 15% reduction in the risk of premature death.

Fewer than one in three Brits manage to meet the five-a-day target, despite experts now believing that we should actually be aiming to eat ten portions for optimum health.

But these studies prove that every little bit helps. So, why not try to factor in one plant-based meal a day?

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