Vegetarianism is a healthy bet

Robyn Goodman

When I tell people I am a vegetarian, the most popular response I get is rolled eyes and a sigh. I’m automatically put into the category of a crazy, preachy person whose goal in life is to rid the world of all the evil meat-eaters, but that is not my style. I only wish to educate people on the benefits of adapting a meat-free diet.

Friday, Oct. 1 was World Vegetarian Day, which was the beginning of Vegetarian Awareness Month. This day was founded by the North American Society in 1977 in order to commemorate the health benefits of vegetarianism. Instead of ranting about how pigs and cows have feelings, I’m going to take another approach and show you the nutritional and environmental benefits of vegetarianism.

From the beginning of time, man has eaten meat as a basic way of life, but with all of the new diets that have come out in the past few years, vegetarianism is one that has actually taken off and become more than just a fad.

By definition, a vegetarian is someone living on a diet of grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits with or without the use of diary products and eggs. There are many types of vegetarians, from pescetarian, which include people who do not eat animal flesh of any kind, but are willing to consume fish, to vegans who exclude all animal products from food to clothing.

There are many benefits of not eating meat, one of which is living a longer life. According to the China Health Project, which is the largest population study on diet and health, people whose diets do not contain meat live about seven years longer than those whose diets do contain meat. Meat contains cholesterol, which when consumed in large amounts clogs arteries and leads to health problems.

The EPA estimates that nearly 95 percent of pesticides that Americans consume come from meat, fish and dairy products. The animals that are used for food are usually pumped full of steroids and antibiotics to produce more meat. Exposure to antibiotics over time can lead antibiotic resistance, so when a person gets sick, harsher antibiotics must be used to cure the infection.

Aside from the nutritional benefits, being a vegetarian has an environmental impact. Animals create waste, which causes methane gas which, in turn, contributes to the greenhouse effect. The manure created by the animals is on the EPAs list of the country’s top 10 pollutants. All that for the porterhouse steak you like to eat. Do you want to be responsible for the hole in the ozone layer becoming larger?

Of course there are some disadvantages of vegetarianism, one of which can be the lack of the proper vitamins and minerals. Meat is a great source of protein, and without that a person can experience fatigue and mood swings due to fluctuating blood sugar levels. Another disadvantage of vegetarianism is the tendency to consume unhealthy foods. Becoming a vegetarian does not mean eating all the pasta your heart desires, unfortunately. Fruits and vegetables must make up a majority of a vegetarian diet, hence the name.  While these disadvantages may seem like they outweigh the benefits, if you eat a balanced vegetarian diet, you can get even more vitamins from fruits and vegetables than meat. It’s all about moderation.

While becoming a vegetarian may seem like a difficult task, it is becoming easier than ever. Every day there are more meatless options for vegetarians. Restaurants are changing with the times and offering more than just salads for vegetarians.

So when you’re craving a hamburger, reach for a veggie burger instead. It may not be the exact same thing, but trust me, they’re really not that bad.