The debate has raged on for years – meat or no meat, which is better for health? There is mounting evidence that a vegetarian lifestyle acts as a preventative measure for numerous diseases including heart disease, diabetes and cancer. A vegetarian diet is said to increase energy and improve mental health while maintaining a low body mass index and lowering bad cholesterol levels.
Vegetarians are generally known to have a lower body fat percentage due to the natural, unprocessed, low-fat foods that they consume daily, including fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Foods are missing the high fat content and controversial growth hormones often associated with meat.
A vegetarian lifestyle is said to decrease the risk of cancer due to the large amounts of fruits and vegetables consumed, each of which contain natural, cancer-fighting antioxidant properties, as well as a plethora of vitamins and minerals that help boost the immune system.
These same antioxidants also help people look and feel younger, with glowing skin, shiny hair and increased vitality, vegetarians are said to be more optimistic which helps keep the physically damaging effects of stress at bay.
Help the Environment
Raising and slaughtering the amount of animals required to keep up with the enormous demand for meat has a truly detrimental effect on the environment. According to the article “22 Reasons to Go Vegetarian Right Now” originally published in Vegetarian Times by Norine Dworkin, “Each year, the nation’s factory farms, collectively produce 2 billion tons of manure, a substance that’s rated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as one of the country’s top 10 pollutants.”
The methane gas released by most farm animals is contributing to the greenhouse gas effect, while the chemicals and gases from urine, manure and pesticides are seeping into bodies of water.
Even more shocking is the fact that nearly 3/4 of the grains produced in the United States are fed to animals raised for slaughter, rather than helping to feed people in impoverished areas. If the grains were given to people, there would be enough food to feed the entire planet.
Replacing meat with fruits and vegetables will cut food bills by hundreds if not thousands of dollars per year. Meat is expensive, particularly when heavily processed (think pre-made hamburgers and chicken nuggets) and cost a lot more than foods bought fresh. As a test, do a shopping trip with no meat products whatsoever and be amazed by the difference in price.
Meet in the Middle
Going vegetarian doesn’t need to be an all or nothing proposition. One can adopt a predominantly vegetarian diet, eating meat only once or twice a week, perhaps only on weekends. They will still reap many of the benefits associated with vegetarianism without giving up what they enjoy completely.