Training a New Generation of Chefs to Cook With Less Meat

The Culinary Institute of America wants to 'flip' the role of protein in restaurants.

Written by Willy Blackmore for TakePart.com

“Right now, chefs have a tendency to use the term protein to be synonymous with meat,” said Sophie Egan, the program director for Menus of Change, CIA’s partnership with the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. “And that’s something in the very wording that needs to change.” Egan and her colleagues are working to redefine chefs’ terminology in The Protein Flip, a graphics-heavy white paper published last week. Instead of diverting plants and grains into the production of meat, The Protein Flip calls on chefs to feed the plants directly to diners, “with much smaller amounts of accompanying animal protein.”

Meat has long stood at the center of the American plate, especially in restaurants, where—despite some of the great vegetable-centric cooking that's in vogue—vegetarian or vegan items often feel like more of an afterthought. But there is more to cooking with vegetables than a meatless pasta dish, veggie burger, or pile of mixed grilled vegetables, and the CIA wants chefs to explore the terrain. Americans eat three times as much meat as the global average, and more than half of that is red meat. As a recent report from the World Resources Institute highlighted, Americans eat far more protein than is nutritionally necessary.

Instead of asking people to not eat meat, The Protein Flip suggests eating less and different kinds of animal protein and increasing the amount of plant-based proteins included in meals. Instead of a portion of meat occupying the center of the plate with some vegetables on the side, the idea is to flip the balance, with plants making up more of a dish and meat moving into a condiment-like role. Why not serve two ounces of meat in a dish instead of eight or more? Animal-based protein sources (including eggs and dairy) account for 85 percent of the protein Americans consume (20 percent of that is chicken), with legumes, for example, coming in at just 1.3 percent of the total.

There’s a public health angle here too. As the white paper explains, high levels of meat consumption can lead to diet-related disease and drives the use of antibiotics in livestock. Conversely, minimally processed plant-based proteins are, according to the paper, “associated with a lower risk of chronic disease and mortality,” in addition to requiring fewer resources.

Advanced Glycation End Products Can Increase Risk of Disease

Recent evidence has found that excessive consumption of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), harmful compounds that stem from cooking foods at high temperatures and accumulate in the body as people age, are a major cause of this inflammation that can increase the risk of disease.

Dietary interventions that reduce the consumption of foods high in AGEs, which are common in the standard Western diet, can be effective in helping prevent these metabolic disorders.

AGEs naturally form inside the body when proteins or fats combine with sugars (glycation). This affects the normal function of cells, making them more susceptible to damage and premature aging. AGEs are particularly high in animal-derived foods that are high in fat and protein, such as meats (especially red meats), which are prone to AGE formation through cooking. Sugary foods and highly processed and prepackaged products also are high in AGEs. Cooking methods that use high temperatures to brown or char foods, such as grilling, roasting, and broiling have the largest impact on the amount of AGEs consumed.

The body naturally rids itself of harmful AGE compounds, but it doesn’t eliminate them effectively when too many are ingested through food. All of the body’s cells are affected by the accumulation of AGEs, which not only have been linked to aging but also the development or worsening of many chronic illnesses, such as cardiovascular, liver, and Alzheimer’s diseases.

Reducing AGEs

Dr. Feng recommends that most effective way to reduce intake of foods high in AGEs is to switch to a plant-based diet and modify your cooking methods. Water based cooking methods, such as boiling, stewing, poaching and steaming, reduce AGEs consumed. Eating more vegetables and fruits is another way to reduce AGE consumption. Baird stresses the importance of dietary phytonutrients, which are found in the pigments of various colorful fruits and vegetables. One type of phytonutrient in particular, called iridoids, which are found in deeply colored blueberries, cranberries, and noni fruit, can lower AGEs in the body, she says. Read more.

Inflammation Is Associated With Every Health Condition

Did you know that inflammation is the common link between such debilitating conditions as Alzheimers, heart disease, cancer, and arthritis? Inflammation is also thought to be the culprit behind the visible signs of aging.

Inflammation is your body's response to stress - whether from your diet, lifestyle or environment. Think of what happens when you catch a cold. You may experience inflammation in the form of a fever as your body heats up to eradicate the effects of the invading virus.

Inflammation has been found to be associated with just about every health condition and researchers are furiously investigating chronic inflammation’s effects on health and possible preventive medical applications.

It’s “an emerging field,” says UCLA’s Dr. David Heber. “It’s a new concept for medicine.”

Why is it a new concept? Because modern medicine focuses on treating symptoms, not addressing the root cause of an issue. Arthritis is inflammation of the joints. Heart disease is inflammation of the arteries. Instead of taking a medication to reduce joint pain or lower cholesterol, we would be better served by reducing inflammation in the body. 

FengFit Foods Plant-Based Cuisine is a great choice for a low inflammation diet.


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