When the idea of becoming vegetarian pops into most people’s minds, the first thing they think of is all the delicious food they have to give up. And yes, even as a vegetarian I agree that bacon and burgers are delicious, especially when combined. But what if just one day a week you chose to avoid meat… What would happen? Would you go through meat withdrawals? Would your mouth water at the smell if you walked by a deli? I highly doubt it, but I can give you multiple reasons why a vegetarian diet will improve not only your life, but the world around you.
The nutritional benefits of fruits and vegetables combined with cutting out processed and red meat can lead to a longer life. Studies have found that eating daily servings of fruit and vegetables will reduce your risk of a stroke by 5 percent and coronary heart disease by 4 percent. Furthermore, consuming red meat and processed meat will increase your risk of cancer, including colorectal, esophagus, lung, pancreas, and endometrium. On the other hand, diets rich in fruits and vegetables help prevent many different cancers.
The vegetarian diet is also much healthier than processed meat and usually leads to consuming less calories, which in turn reduces the risk for type 2 diabetes and obesity. Studies in both the United States and Europe illustrate how people on plant-based diets commonly have much lower body weights and body mass indexes. Fiber, a vitamin not found in animal products, contributes to fullness and is a main cause of this difference. There are multiple other vitamins, including protein, folate, zinc, iron and magnesium, that are consumed more on a plant-based diet.
This one is easy. Go into any restaurant or grocery store and compare the price of a steak to zucchini. Meat is expensive, and vegetables are not. Commonly, the vegetarian meals at a restaurant are also less expensive than those with meat.
Amidst the drought in California and drastic climate change throughout the world, it is imperative that we take strides toward halting global warming. Environmentalists found that in order to produce one pound of beef, around 1,850 gallons of water are needed. In comparison, vegetables only use about 39 gallons for one pound of produce. Switching to a vegetarian diet would reduce water consumption by up to 58 percent per person. That means it’s more environmentally friendly to not eat a pound of meat than to not shower for half a year.
Meat production does not only waste water, but also adds significant amounts of greenhouse gases into our atmosphere. Methane, produced at high volumes by cows, negatively affects the climate 23 times more than CO2. Beef is a large contributor to global warming by producing 30 kg of greenhouse gas for every kg of food. In contrast, vegetables like carrots and potatoes produce less than half a kg of greenhouse gases for every kg of food. The use of fossil fuels in both the meat and vegetable farming industries goes along with the pattern regarding greenhouse gases. Producing one kilocalorie of meat-based protein uses 25 kilocalories of fossil fuel energy, while one kilocalorie of grain-based protein uses 2.2 kilocalories. Furthermore, the amount of grain needed to feed livestock is enough to feed about 840 million people.
An extreme misconception is the struggle of finding suitable vegetarian options at restaurants. With the plethora of vegetarian options out there, it is impossible to not have a choice. There are dishes that use tofu and other meat substitutes to make vegetarian burgers, meatloaf and hotdogs. And when a dish is made from scratch, the kitchen is usually able to prepare it vegetarian. And since most meat is served with a sauce or seasoning, it’s easy to substitute in vegetables and still get a similar flavor.
5. Respecting Animals
The word “vegetarian” or “vegan” tends to come with a negative connotation due to the animal rights group PETA. Although their message is one of love and compassion, the radical ways in which they share their information is upsetting to some. For those who agree with PETA, not wanting to show compassion and care for all animals is shocking. But for others, their love of burgers, steak and bacon outweigh any fleeting thoughts of animals suffering.
Becoming vegetarian because of a love for animals is a moral choice that cannot be thrust upon anyone. When looking at the nutritional benefits, cost efficiency, impact on the planet and food options associated with a plant-based diet, however, a vegetarian diet makes sense. The transition to cutting out meat can be difficult depending on the person, but once a week is an easy step. You may find that avoiding meat is easy to do and will make you feel better as a person. And you will have helped your health, animals, your wallet, and the planet.
Do yourself a favor and go vegetarian once a week!