10 Reasons Everyone Should Be A Vegetarian
In a world where bacon has basically made its way into everything and meat products continue to be a staple at sporting events, barbecues, and other areas where celebration is a factor, partaking in a vegetarian diet may seem unappealing. There are many misunderstandings when it comes to what a vegetarian lifestyle is and what it consists of. Many people may assume that being a vegetarian means:
- Extremely restrictive caloric intake
- Being hungry all the time
- Having a very limited diet
- Constantly feeling deprived
- Eating a diet that does not have a proper amount of nutrients and vitamins due to the absence of meat and sometimes dairy products
The truth is that the absence of meat in the diet does not mean an end to variety, nutrients, and satiation. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Vegetarianism provides far more vitamins and nutrients than diets that tout meat as a staple item at meal times. An added benefit to the litany of essential nutrients vegetarian meals provide is that said meals do not have the gross amount of fat and calories tacked on that are common in carnivorous diets. This acts to prevent disease and increase longevity, while also boosting energy and subsequently increasing quality of life. Moreover, vegetarianism can very often lead to weight-loss, which increases positive self-image and confidence. Many of the most sought after celebrity body types come from celebs that practice a healthful, vegetarian diet.
The benefits of vegetarianism doesn’t lie solely in aesthetics. Eliminating meat from the diet helps to protect the environment and also encourages humane practicing by protecting innocent animals from being slaughtered — animals that are usually subjected to abhorrent conditions and who are often fed products laced with dangerous hormones and other toxic substances before being killed and packaged before ending up on our respective dinner tables.
Vegetarianism can fall into several categories, so people have many options in deciding which branch of vegetarianism is best for them, or which branch they would like to start off with before entering into something like veganism, where all animal products are completely eliminated from the diet. The branches of vegetarianism include:
- Vegans: There is absolutely no consumption of meat or dairy products, or “animal by-products,” e., honey is not even consumed due to the fact that it is produced by bees, an animal. Vegans are also diligent in their clothing choices by refraining from “animal products such as silk, leather, and wool…”
- Lacto-Vegetarian: Lacto-vegetarians do not eat meat, but they may consume dairy products.
- Ovo-Vegetarian: “Ovo” is in reference to eggs. Ovo-vegetarians, thus, consume eggs but abstain from meat or dairy products.
- Pollotarian: Pollotarians refrain from all meat products except for “poultry and foul.”
- Pescatarian: Pescatarians abstain from meats, except for fish and seafood.
- Flexatarian: Pollotarians and pescatarians could both fall into this category. Flexatarians limit their consumption of meat as much as possible, but will feature it in their meals occasionally.
Although pollotarians, pescatarians, and flexatarians are not technically considered vegetarian diets, they can serve as a step in the right direction for those who are not quite ready to give up meat entirely. Although, by taking a closer look at what a true vegetarian diet consists of — and, yes, this concludes the allegedly “restrictive” vegan diet” — you will see that it is actually much easier to maintain than it might appear at face value. In fact, there are several sweet treats and other satiating indulgences that can easily be included in a vegetarian diet! By gaining a greater understanding of this lifestyle, you will see that it is not only easy to partake in, but offers a delicious array of meal plans, protects the environment, boosts energy and improves mood, and will decrease risks of diseases like cancer and heart disease — diseases that have become so pervasive in our society. Let’s delve deeper by taking a look at the 10 reasons everyone should be a vegetarian.
Vegetarianism Can Lead to Weight Loss
More than half of Americans today are overweight or obese. Overweight and obesity aren’t only conditions that can lower self-confidence and self-satisfaction; they can also lead to a litany of conditions that hinder quality of life and increase mortality rates, such as heart disease, cancers, and stroke. According to Health, “A large, five-year study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in 2013 revealed that people who don’t eat meat have a lower average BMI than meat-eaters, and that vegans have a significantly lower obesity rate than omnivores (9.4% versus 33.3%). Plus, a new study presented at The Obesity Society’s 2013 meeting found that overweight/obese people following a vegan or vegetarian diet lost more weight than those who consumed meat—even though both groups took in the same number of calories.”
Furthermore, Prevention made note of a study from the University of South Carolina, which followed several different types of vegetarians and found that participants were able to drop weight, especially the vegans. The fact of the matter is that meats can dish out a ton of saturated fats that lead to overconsumption of calories, the main culprit in weight gain. Conversely, vegetarians consume complex carbohydrates and a litany of fruits and vegetables, which are foods that manage to be extremely low calorie (some actually have zero calories) while also being extremely filling due to their high fiber content. Proteins such as nuts and beans are higher in calories, but not nearly as high as meats, particularly red meats. Moreover, much of the fats in nuts, vegetable oils and beans are unsaturated and have many protective properties.
Reduced Risk of Food-borne Illness
Food-borne illness can lead to a litany of discomforts, hospitalization, and even fatality. The Vegetarian Times outlined various ways in which a vegetarian diet can reduce risk of food-borne illness, positing, “The CDC reports that food-borne illnesses of all kinds account for 76 million illnesses a year, resulting in 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths in the United States. According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), foods rich in protein such as meat, poultry, fish and seafood are frequently involved in food-borne illness outbreaks.”
There are, of course, instances where consumption of vegetables or fruits can lead to food-borne illness, such as with botulism, which occurs when people consume products from canned foods which are contaminated with the toxin. However, if you partake in a true vegetarian lifestyle, you will notice that the lifestyle does not necessarily tout canned vegetables and fruits, being that the processing often eliminates essential nutrients. Vegetarians are more interested in eating whole fruits and vegetables, as well as natural products consisting of complex carbohydrates and plant proteins, which eliminate the risks that come with consuming processed foods. Furthermore, proper washing of natural vegetarian products eliminates risks associated with food-borne illness. I find it disconcerting that — along with consuming various meats — many restaurants and diets now include a “raw meat” trend. Sushi, steak and tuna tartar, and others have graced menus as supposed delicacies (and tacked with hefty prices), all while noting an italicized warning stating that consuming raw meat, fish and dairy products could increase the risk of food-borne illness. But, hey, it tastes good right? That’s enough reason to risk ending up in the hospital. Yeah, NO.
Vegetarianism Fights World Hunger
Did you know that nixing meat from your diet can actually prevent famine? Vegetarian Times states that, “ About 70 percent of all grain produced in the United States is fed to animals raised for slaughter. The 7 billion livestock animals in the United States consume five times as much grain as is consumed directly by the American population. If all the grain currently fed to livestock were consumed directly by people, the number of people who could be fed would be nearly 800 million, says David Pimentel, professor of ecology at Cornell University. If the grain were exported, it would boost the US trade balance by $80 billion a year.”
Down To Earth expounds this point, noting that thousands of hungry children worldwide die each day due to starvation, an issue that could be greatly prevented if everyone took part in a vegetarian diet. “If everyone ate a vegetarian diet, there would be more than enough food to nourish the world’s entire population of more than 6.3 billion people.”
Vegetarianism Prevents Disease
Coronary heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in America today. Vegetarianism helps to prevent this by providing a diet that is inherently low in fat and cholesterol. Vegetarian diets also provide a substantial source of dietary fiber which works to provide other ailments such as colon cancers and digestive issues.
Vegetarian Times referenced a study which showed that switching to a vegetarian diet “can add 13 healthy years to your life.” Further proof of this comes from a Okinawa, Japan, where residents “have the longest life expectancy of any Japanese and likely the longest life expectancy of anyone in the world, according to a 30-year study of more than 600 Okinawan centenarians. Their secret: a low-calorie diet of unrefined complex carbohydrates, fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, and soy.”
Vegetarianism Will Save You Money
Have you ever noticed items that bear the words “market price” attached to their description. These items are always a meat product of some sort, often steak or seafood. Meat items tend to cost much more while going out, whereas you can order a generously portioned vegetarian meal at a fraction of the price. Moreover, meats tend to add a large expense to grocery shopping endeavors. Vegetarian items like beans, rice, legumes, nuts and a variety of other grains have a lengthy shelf life and also cost very little. Some people become concerned over the shorter shelf life of produce. However there are several products like carrots, broccoli, apples and orange that tend to keep fresh much longer. Furthermore, the nutrients you will gain from produce are worth cooking them up fast, or packing them daily as a healthy raw snack. If you want to stock up on lots of produce but are worried about them going bad before you and your family would have time to consume them, consider relegating some of your purchases to the frozen food variety. Getting boxed, plain frozen vegetables is most preferred, as these are the closest you can get to fresh produce.
Doing this will offer you plenty of groceries that will last you an exponential amount of time and thus keep your budget in check. Meat, however, is pricy and spoils easily. Plus, there’s that whole pesky risk of food-borne illness that we discussed before.
Animals Don’t Have A Choice
When people argue against vegetarianism, many reference early Homo sapiens who were “hunter gatherers” that killed animals to pilfer said animals’ meat as food for their survival. The thing is, we aren’t cavemen and the 20th and 21st centuries have brought advancements that primitive human beings did not have available to them. These advancements include things like: shelter; access to grocers and restaurants; clean water, and much more. Basically, early Homo sapiens hunted animals and needed to obtain as much calories as they could at a time due to the fact that they didn’t know if/when their next meal was coming. I find it mirthful to hear people refer to certain diets as “cavemen diets” when the conditions cavemen were living in were extremely dire, and the necessity of their hunting and killing for food was dictated by harsh conditions, lack of necessities and — oh yeah — the freaking ice age. We have all evolved since cavemen days so why shouldn’t our diets follow suit?
Animals don’t have a voice in whether or not they are subjected to slaughter — they simply are. Down To Earth makes a good point on this, stating, “Animals on today’s factory farms have no legal protection from cruelty that would be illegal if it were inflicted on dogs or cats. Yet farmed animals are no less intelligent or capable of feeling pain than are the dogs and cats we cherish as companions.” Sure, we may technically be at the “top of the food chain” but how does that make killing innocent animals some sort of rite of passage for human beings? And why is killing cattle considered fair game while hurting a dog would be considered cruel and unusual punishment? Human beings are fully capable of surviving without consumption of meat products, so there should be no need — or want — to sacrifice innocent animals as a way to satiate your appetite during mealtimes.
You Can Still Indulge
This may seem like a counterintuitive point, since we’ve spent a large amount of time on this list regaling all the health benefits of vegetarianism. However, everybody likes to indulge every once in a while, and in moderation indulgences can be perfectly fine. Did you know that Oreos are actually considered vegan? They are and so are several other guilty pleasures, including:
- Nutter butters
- Pop tarts (the unfrosted kind)
- Smucker’s marshmallow topping
- Pills bury crescent rolls (what?!)
- Airheads and more!
We all deserve a treat once in a while, and some people mistakenly assume that vegetarianism means a completely restrictive diet. Since when was meat part of a dessert, anyway? Moreover, with vegetarianism being touted as such a popular diet choice, slews of bakeries, grocers, and restaurants offer delicious options that are dairy-free to satiate your sweet tooth.
Vegetarianism Protects The Environment
Not only does partaking in a vegetarian diet help ward off famine across the globe, it also aids in reducing pollution, protecting water conservation, conserving fossil fuels, and even protects our tropical forests. Vegetarian Times notes, that, “According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), chemical and animal waste runoff from factory farms is responsible for more than 173,000 miles of polluted rivers and streams. Runoff from farmlands is one of the greatest threats to water quality today. Agricultural activities that cause pollution include confined animal facilities, plowing, pesticide spraying, irrigation, fertilizing and harvesting.”
According to The Whole Earth Vegetarian Catalogue, it takes far more fossil fuel for meat production than it does for products like soybeans. “It takes 3 to 15 times as much water to produce animal protein as it does plant protein.” Tropical forests are often dismantled in order to make room for livestock which will be raised with the purpose of slaughtering in order to distribute meat products to the national public. Forests are not only sacred treasures within our globe, trees in forest provide oxygen which is essential to our environmental health and personal well-being.
Become More Creative In The Kitchen
It really isn’t difficult to maintain a vegetarian diet. One of the most essential components of a vegetarian diet, however, is variety. We need to eat an array of plants, legumes, beans, and complex carbohydrates in order to gain all essential nutrients and vitamins. Not only does this offer the opportunity to try new foods, it can also provide more fun and creativity in the kitchen. Vegetarianism views food as more than sustenance — food is an experience. Vegetarian plates involve a rainbow of colors (vegetables and fruits with bright colors are loaded with cancer-fighting photo-chemicals and antioxidants as well) that are aesthetically pleasing, which will make mealtime all the more enjoyable.
Although there is a lot of variety involved in a vegetarian diet, it doesn’t take a lot of work to prepare a vegetarian meal. You can combine different ingredients into a salad, or make a fast — albeit, delicious — sautee by combining ingredients and olive oil in a frying pan. There are also a litany of vegetarian blogs and cookbooks at your disposal to help you with meal planning, and to open your eyes to a world a delicious, creative, and easy-to-make dishes.
Menopausal Women Thrive By Partaking In A Vegetarian Diet
Even if you have not yet experienced menopause, you will eventually experience it if you are a woman or you will have someone close to you experience this often trying chapter of life if you are a man. Menopause is a completely natural stage of life, but the symptoms associated with peri-menopause and menopause can feel nightmarish and even cause some women to feel as if they have contracted a terrible disease. Symptoms of menopause range from mild to severe, but every woman is likely to experience some sort of discomfort during this time. According to Vegetarian Times, a vegetarian diet can ease the symptoms of menopause, so that women can go about their daily routines without symptoms hindering their quality of life.
“Many foods contain nutrients beneficial to perimenopausal and menopausal women. Certain foods are rich in phytoestrogens, the plant-based chemical compounds that mimic the behavior of estrogen. Since phytoestrogens can increase and decrease estrogen and progesterone levels, maintaining a balance of them in your diet helps ensure a more comfortable passage through menopause.”
Menopausal women often experience weight gain regardless of whether or not their eating and fitness habits have changed. A vegetarian diet can help ward off those extra pounds due to its fibrous content, alongside lower calories and fat. Another facet of menopause is decreased bone density, which can lead to ailments like osteoporosis. Vegetarianism can help protect bone health as well. Although many vegetarians will also not consume dairy products — which are high in calcium — there are several foods such as “ dry beans, tofu, soymilk and dark green vegetables such as broccoli, kale, collards and turnip greens” that provide a healthy dose of calcium. Many vegetarian products are also fortified with calcium and vitamin D in order to protect bone health, and vegetarianism in general provides far higher doses of a variety of vitamins to protect bones, unlike diets which are heavy in meat.