There are tons of reasons. A vegetarian diet (provided you take it easy on cheese and butter) is much better for your cholesterol levels. Meat is expensive, and vegetarian options can inspire more creative meals.
There are a great deal of advantages, even from a strictly health-related perspective. On a vegetarian diet, your risk of contracting a foodborne illness plummets, as do your chances of developing heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and a number of other conditions. There is also generally far less fat and cholesterol in meat-free meals, helping lower blood pressure and reduce chances of obesity. It is very important to do some research and eat a wide variety of foods when on a vegetarian diet to ensure proper nutrition.
A vegetarian diet is not necessarily better than a diet including meat. From a health perspective, wise food choices are still necessary. One can eat cookies, white pasta, chips and candy and be eating a vegetarian diet – but not a very healthy one.
From an environmental perspective, how we raise our food — grains and meat alike — has as much impact on the environment as does what our food is (think GMOs, CAFOs, etc). I suggest attempting to eat organic as much as possible.
You might be interested in the book The Vegetarian Myth (link below).
In terms of personal health, a vegetarian diet is not necessarily healthier, because there are still plenty of unhealthy food options that do not contain meat. For the environment, however, a vegetarian diet is extremely beneficial. Some facts to consider:
-The land used to grow feed crops and graze animals raised for food account for 30% of the Earth’s land mass, and more than 260 million acres of forest in the U.S. have been cleared to create space to grow crops for animals.
-It takes 16 pounds of grain to produce one pound of meat.
-It takes more than 11 times as much fossil fuel to make one calorie from animal protein than it does to make one calorie from plant protein.
-It takes 2,400 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat.
There is the element of conscience as well. Eating vegetarian cuts down on your support of the meat industry, many companies of which run what some consider to be extremely cruel operation for animals. Poor living conditions, physical alterations, poor diets, and separation from parents are just some of the complaints against some meat companies. Forgoing meat means you at least know you limiting or eliminating your support of these practices.
Of course, vegetarianism doesn’t automatically get you off the hook, dairy products come from these same farms as well. Buying local, organic, or certified humane can further help in this area, which can apply to meat too! But when you are buying groceries it’s easier to see where products are coming from. It’s the restaurants that become a challenge. Sometimes being vegetarian and drawing that line just makes it easier to know for sure that you aren’t eating “unethical” meat. Just depends on where your values lie, or how much research you are willing to put in.
I believe it is just as difficult to make a vegetarian diet healthy as it is to make a omnivorous diet healthy. Meat eaters have to worry about cholesterol and fat intake, and vegetarians have to carefully manage their foods to make sure they’re getting essential proteins. It’s difficult to have a healthy diet period.
That being said, some prefer vegetarianism because when done right, its much easier to avoid fats and cholesterols and to incorporate essential nutrients. Also, some enjoy taking what they see as the more ethical path, and supporting animal rights. Those who even cut back on meat in addition to those who stop eating it all together help to curtail harmful and abusive practices to animals, commonly used in factory farming and non-organic agricultural practices.
To elaborate on the other posts, the way some animals are treated in the livestock business is awful. Some chickens are packed into cages that can barely move or basically not move at all. Some cows are pumped up full of who knows what at the expense of their health and the health of consumers. There are free range options out there for eggs, etc., which are more ethical and healthy options, in my opinion, for someone who still wishes to eat meat products. Also, from what I understand, meat production is not the most environmentally friendly process out there.
A vegetarian diet is better for three reasons: it spares animals from cruelty, it is lighter on the planet and it can be healthier too if properly plannet, although the latter is true of any other diet.
Not that I’m saying anything that hasn’t already been pointed out, but, I was a vegetarian and quasi-vegan for over eight years, so I feel obligated to weigh in. I should note that I originally got in to vegetarianism for ethical purposes. My biggest concern was (and still is, though I’m an omnivore now) the treatment of animals in factory farms and their affect on the environment. I think any effort to reduce the suffering in this world is a noble one, but who is to say that the factory equipment that harvested your veggie-burger didn’t horribly maul a fawn or the like and leave it there bleeding out in a field. Ok, that’s a bit extreme but there is a moral ambiguity to be found in just about everything. I figured, as I got older, that instead of a being a militant animal rights activist I would strive to find a balance in health and ethics. I eat organic meat when I can, I still eat plenty of vegetarian and vegan meals when I feel like it, and both ways I feel great and am in better shape than I ever have been in my life (I workout as well). It is arguable that a vegetarian diet helps the environment, in my opinion, the evidence points towards the positive. However, the world will never accept veganism or animal rights short of some type of revolution in the animal kingdom where cows topple us from the food chain and we’re paying reparations for the genocide we’ve committed.
In short, one is not better than the other. It is your choice to make but keep in mind that the responsible choice is that one that keeps you healthy and a productive member of our life force. If you eat nothing but McDonald’s all day and sit on the couch letting Jerry Springer eat up energy 24/7, I highly recommend that you switch to Boca burgers. I know it’s tempting.
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