Vegetarianism is defined by WebMD (an online medical journal) as “a diet free of meat, fish, and fowl flesh.” While vegetarianism may not be a topic you’d find on your every day news channel, it is most certainly a current event given the fact that their population is on the rise. In 2009 statistics showed that vegetarians made up a measly one percent of our country, while as of now five percent of the United States population identifies themselves as a partaker in this dieting lifestyle. That means that with in that short timespan the vegetarian population has more than trippled, and is even increasing as we speak. Political figures, athletes, and even celebrities such a Jay Z and Beyonce are joining this lifestyle, restaurants are changing their menus, and slaughter-house education films are being shown in school. All of these public figures, advertisements, and educational films advocating for us to consider eliminating meats from our daily diet. The Huffington post even claims that with the way things are looking we will be a vegetarian society by the year 2050.

With so many people now choosing to take on a vegetarian lifestyle, we must ask ourselves, what is it that a vegetarian diet can do for us that a meat based one can not? The answer that is most commonly produced and written about is how choosing a vegetarian lifestyle saves the life of helpless farm animals and helps you lower your weight, but what most people don’t know is that it does way more for your body then simply helping you shave off a few pounds. By simply cutting out meats from your daily diet you could possibly extend your life span and save the environment that you live in.

Eating meats that are high in saturated fats can result in weight gain, high cholesterol, and heart disease. Laura McMullen, a health and wellness reporter, discusses how “choosing a diet heavy in fruits and veggies may help ward off chronic diseases and keep you svelte in 2016 and years to come.” Did you know that in the United States we are known for our obesity and diabetes? McMullen informs us that “Roughly 387 million people are living with diabetes, and according to the International Diabetes Federation, that number is expected to soar to nearly 600 million by 2035” (McMullen, 2016). Did you know that the two highest ranking causes of death in the US are heart diseases and strokes? Heart diseases and strokes can be brought on by numerous things but the most common one is high blood pressure, which is statistically lower in vegetarians. The Huffington Post informs us that “looking specifically at obesity (defined as having a BMI over 30), researchers found that vegans had the lowest percentage of people who were obese — just 9.4 percent — while meat-eaters had the highest percentage of people who were obese — 33.3 percent” (Stevens, 2014).

Meats such as chicken, beef, and pork contain positive things such as amino acids that our body needs while also containing high levels of saturated fat which are a factor in weight gain problems. While some meats are leaner then others, vegetarians solution is to cut those meats from our everyday diet entirely and replace them with plant proteins which contain a substantially less amount of saturated fats then those that exist in a meat based diet, making them much healthier for your system. The biggest obstacle that comes with taking on a vegetarian diet is ensuring that you find the proper meat substitutions. Kerri-Ann Jennings, a dietitian nutritionist who’s goal is to empower people to eat healthier, wrote an article for The Huffington Post titled ‘6 Foods to Eat If You’re Skipping Meatwhere she goes over some easy ways in which you can get the proper nutrients you are no longer getting from meat. In the article she informs us that “beans are a good substitution for protein along with nuts, seeds, soy and eggs”. Protein is not the only thing missing from your diet when you discard meats though, you must also find alternatives for iron by eating things such as cereal, leafy greens, and raisins because it transfers oxygen from our lungs to our cells. You must also consume yogurt, shiitake mushrooms, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds in order to get your appropriate fill of zinc which is crucial for your growth and development in all stages of life, as well as your immune system (Jennings, 2011). So although finding substitutions is sightly complex, it is in fact do-able and worth it in the end.

It gets better, not only does this plant based diet improve your health but it also improves your environment! Of course the simple act of eating animal proteins is not what is deteriorating our environment, it is the animal farming which “ devastates forests, pollutes oceans, rivers, seas and air, depends on oil and coal, and is significantly responsible for climate change.” (Vidal, 2010) When you think about what motivates people to not eat meat, you tend to think of how you are saving the animals being slaughtered but what you don’t know is that when you stop eating meat you are also stopping a production that is seriously injuring our environment. The chemicals that are used at an animal farm in order to properly prime the animals for slaughter are responsible for 18% of the climate change which in total is more than all transportation mechanisms, such as cars and planes, put together. That’s a huge carbon footprint. Not only this, but The Guardian informs us that the farm animals manure and urine is funneled into massive waste lagoons sometimes holding as many as 40m gallons which often break, leak, or overflow resulting in the polluting of our underground water supplies and rivers with nitrogen, phosphorus and nitrates. To top it off not only do animal farms take up 30% of our non-ice covered land, but it uses 70% of the water that is available to humans due to the fact that “a pound of beef needs around 9,000 liters — or more than 20,000lbs of water.” (Vidal, 2010) Animal farming is hurting our planet and in turn hurting us through the environment we live in so if you care about the environment then this is definitely a life style you should be considering.

Taking on a vegetarian diet is a drastic change to your system and takes extreme discipline due to the sacrifices you will be making. To execute it correctly and still supply your body with the vitamins and proteins your body will be needing you will need to know the proper substitutions and amounts. This is a lifestyle that I recommend everyone try to evolve to in order to help your body and our planet. After all the research I have conducted I have been trying to pull myself away from meat consumption, and as of now I’m not strong enough to drop it cold turkey as I know many people cant fathom doing that either I simply recommend taking it slow. Start with meatless Mondays and work up from there because at the end of the day any time you choose an alternative protein you are helping the environment, animals, yourselves, and others.

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