For some people, vegetarianism might seem like a huge mountain to climb, or a brick wall to knock over. They might not want to give up meat altogether, thinking that the world would come tumbling down if they stopped eating barbecue ribs, big juicy steaks, or their weekly quarter chicken.
I decided to be vegetarian based on different things I’ve learned along my journey. At first it was solely because it benefited me on spiritual, emotional, and mental levels, and a lot of my family members didn’t understand the reasoning.
But my belief that healthy foods and holistic nutrition help heal the body, heart, mind, and soul created a ripple effect in my mind, and my reasons for choosing a vegetarian lifestyle just continue to grow. A few reasons I believe in the vegetarian lifestyle are:
- Compassion for animals
- A better quality of life
- Environmental awareness
- Understanding industrialized eating versus vegetarianism
I also chose the vegetarian lifestyle to eliminate processed meat from my diet, which contain unhealthy food additives, antibiotics, steroids, hormones, and GMOs.
I’ve learned a lot of meat eaters actually aren’t gaining as many benefits from their healthy foods as they think. If meat-eaters were eating better quality meat, and less processed meats, then the health benefits of meat become a little clearer. In today’s society, however, eating organic, healthy meats isn’t always possible.
People will say a vegetarian lifestyle isn’t for everyone, but maybe becoming “more” vegetarian is the more sustainable practice. Here are four health benefits of eating less meat:
The most common assumption people make about the benefits of meat is that it gives them an adequate amount of protein in their diet. But in one of my recent nutrition courses, I was surprised to learn the contrary.
For every gram of protein, there is three grams of fat in domesticated pigs, and the ratio is 1/4 in heavy hogs. Domesticated beef is very similar, with a 1/3 ratio of protein to fat content. In comparison, wild animals have a lot more protein than fat, as wild warthogs have a 10/1 ratio and wild venison is 7/1.
Eating meat occasionally, rather than every day, will help you subtract the fat content from your meat eating habits.
There are also many great vegetarian options. I enjoy vegetables such as spinach, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and various beans, seeds and nuts. Eggs and cheese are also part of a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet.
I also found that eating less meat, while incorporating a workout routine, helped me trim some excess fat around my belly.
The amount of water required for meat production is astonishing. It will blow you out of the water! It takes hundreds of liters of water per 10 ounces of meat, according to The Green Guide to David Suzuki’s Nature Challenge:
- Chicken: 963 liters
- Pork: 1,650 liters
- Beef: 11,825 liters
In the U.S., farmed animals produce 130 times more waste than humans. Also, the carbon footprint and the travel time from farm to your table are factors that impact the environment. Suzuki’s guide estimates that a basic North American meal travels 1,500 miles to get to your plate.
For environmental reasons, consider saving food miles by buying meat from local farmers, and safer organic cuts of meat as well.
The World Cancer Research Fund recommends that people consume 80 grams of meat per day. In 1999, 276 grams (10 ounces) a day was average for Canadians. In 2011, the average for Americans was about 340 grams (12 ounces).
Eating less meat will help reduce the risk of many degenerative diseases, including cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.
When you start learning about vegetarian meals, you can get creative and include new healthy foods in your diet. Quinoa, kale and adzuki beans are examples of nutrient dense healthy foods that I regularly eat.
Eat Meatless Meals, Once Minimum Weekly
A 2011 study found that eating less meat could DOUBLE the world’s food supply—now that’s a very important health benefit of eating less meat.
Consider reducing your meat intake by going meat-free once a week. Although Meatless Mondays is quite popular, any day will work just fine.
There’s a lot of conflicting information regarding the health benefits of eating meat—but choosing a vegetarian lifestyle, or just choosing to reduce the amount of meat you eat can be extremely healthy for you. And you won’t miss out on much: there are tons of healthy foods that are vegetarian!
“The Green Guide to David Suzuki’s Nature Challenge,” David Suzuki Foundation web site, 2003; http://www.davidsuzuki.org/publications/resources/2003/the-green-guide-to-david-suzukis-nature-challenge/.
Goffman, E., “The Environmental Impact of Meat,” CSA web site, 2012; http://www.csa.com/discoveryguides/meat/review.pdf.
Mayo Clinic staff, “Meatless meals: The benefits of eating less meat,” Mayo Clinic web site; http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/meatless-meals/my00752.
CP, “Eat Less Meat: Ditch Meat To Double The World’s Food Supply, Study Says,” HuffPost Living Canada web site, Oct. 13, 2011; http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/10/13/less-meat-save-world_n_1009056.html, last updated, Dec. 13, 2011.