Groundwork for healthy dieting

Groundwork+for+healthy+dieting

Peter Smedley

Veganism has gained substantial ground in recent years. The rising popularity of this diet has created stigmas against a culture largely misunderstood. A plant-based diet is strained by the circulation of memes and jokes and a minority of “hyper vegans” representing the majority. While the ideal state of well-being this group preaches consists of a strict, entirely herbaceous lifestyle, the idea of cutting out meat is hard to swallow for the everyday American. The benefits are worth considering, adjusting diets for over 300 million people is an egregious idea. 

 Meat is not to blame. In truth, it is a bystander when examining the issue as a whole. The companies responsible for the contamination of livestock and how they are raised, who neglect the proper care for the animals are the true issue. Due to the living conditions and treatment, “the current situation in densely populated livestock farming areas could be regarded as a ‘natural experiment’ with residents being exposed to potentially harmful bacteria, viruses and air pollutants,” according to an American Geophysical Union (AGU) article. The cramped living spaces of livestock are an ideal breeding ground for the spread of diseases that can be transferred to humans. Sources of food which choose profit over care of their animals must be avoided. In a first world country, accessibility to food is taken for granted. Americans do not consider where food comes from. The pretty packaging and cute mascots are distracting enough to be accepted at face value.

 I grew up like most Americans; I did not consider what was on the plate before me. Until I became a competitor in fighting, and eventually a vegetarian for a short time, I thought it was acceptable. Through external influences of my mother, and a friend who had never eaten meat in his life, I decided to become conscious of what I put into my body. It did not take long to uncover the brutal and inhumane process of meat. Yet what bothered me most were the injections of steroids and hormones into animals I ate every day.

A quick search for “steroids in meat” brings up millions of results, articles, research and videos about the contamination of the food consumed in America on a daily basis. Steroids are injected into meat to increase the growth, and therefore the portions. Many other drugs and hormones are also injected, and their effects on the products placed on tables are horrendous, according to an article in “What the Health.” Examples can be seen at fast food restaurants, or even in grocery stores. The sheer size of raw chicken and other proteins demonstrate the contamination of these products.

When I first discovered this, my initial reaction was to stop eating meat altogether. While I found this lifestyle manageable, I lost a significant amount of muscle mass within weeks. I could not maintain the minimal amount of nutrition needed in a day. Though it is doable to become a vegetarian or vegan, it requires heavy attention. It is possible to maintain these diets in a healthy manner, but can be unrealistic for busy people, let alone college students. 

What I have found is a balance; a diet is a matter of picking battles. There are specific brands to avoid, but those names are massive companies who bury away their dirty work. They make it incredibly difficult to uncover what it is they are actually producing. Still, there are documentaries, and more resources exist to inform people about what should be avoided. One in particular is “What the Health,” where they name multiple companies who fund their own research to create their own results, and companies who use hormones and steroids in their animals. Being healthy does not require a stratifying shift in diet. A conscientious mind and research on where the meat and vegetables consumed are coming from can leave a positive impact on personal health. 

As college students, it is difficult to control predetermined meals. Restricted to empty pockets and an on-campus meal plan, choices are slim. Still, it is paramount to take the time to consider what is being consumed. Diets are a significant part of overall well-being. When students aren’t eating right, negative physical and mental health rates rise. Education about meals on campus is the first step to becoming a healthier student, and learning about the bag of chicken with a cute mascot and pretty lettering is the first step to a healthier America.