The benefits of being a vegetarian are different for everyone. The rising cost of meat may prompt many meat-lovers to consume a largely meatless diet. Religious beliefs and animal-rights causes are two common reasons that inspire the change from carnivore to herbivore.
The growth hormones and antibiotics injected in commercially raised livestock – and the far-reaching side effects of those compounds – might also weigh on your decision to go meatless.
What’s the Difference?
Approximately 8 million people in the United States do not consume meat, poultry or seafood and are classified as vegetarians.
A vegan by definition does not eat any animal products or by-products, including gelatin, milk, cheese and eggs. There are an estimated two million vegans in the United States alone.
There are several million people who do not consume red meat – thought to be the most harmful to physical health – but may still eat seafood and animal-based products such as cheese or eggs. These individuals are called partial vegetarians.
Is a Vegetarian Diet Healthy?
For decades, many doctors and nutritionists considered vegetarianism unhealthy. It was believed that a meatless diet caused severe vitamin deficiency.
Scientists around the world are now reevaluating the benefits of being a vegetarian as more is discovered about antioxidant-rich foods. Foods packed with antioxidants provide all the necessary vitamins and minerals – no meat consumption necessary!
In light of these findings, you may want to reconsider how often you add meat to your dinner plate.
Top 5 Reasons to Reduce Meat in Your Diet
#1- Your Heart Loves Veggies
Heart disease is the number one cause of death, and a diet high in fat and cholesterol increases your risk. According to the American Heart Association, cutting back on meat products lowers your risk of heart disease and stroke.
The University of Oxford released a study made up of 45,000 volunteers from England and Scotland. After almost a decade of research, they concluded that those who follow a vegetarian diet reduce their heart disease risk by as much as one-third!
#2- Higher Cancer Risk Associated with Red Meat
The British Journal of Cancer published a study that found that out of 35,000 women, those who consumed more red meat in their regular diet had the highest risk factors for breast, colon, prostate and pancreatic cancers.
Research on the red meat and cancer link is ongoing, but scientists are clear that the link exists.
#3- Vegetarianism is Environmentally Friendly
Raising cattle causes a heavy negative impact on our environment. The drain on natural resources such as soil and water – and the pollution of both – is extreme.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization found that greenhouse gas emissions from cattle are higher than those of all the vehicles currently on the road.
You contribute to resource preservation with every meatless meal you eat. One action group estimates that replacing three meals each week with non-meat choices saves more water than installing a low-flow head in your shower would.
#4- Reduce Meat Consumption and Live Longer
The German Cancer Research Center spent 21 years charting the diet and lifestyle of almost 2,000 vegans, vegetarians and partial vegetarians.
They concluded that these three groups were measurably healthier overall – and lived longer on average – than the standard German population. There were no significant statistical differences between the three groups.
The malnutrition researchers expected to find that participants suffered from certain diseases – such as osteoporosis – that are typically linked to vitamin and mineral deficiency. No such findings were forthcoming!
#5- Maintain a More Consistent Body Weight
The Imperial College London conducted a large study that followed vegetarians and non-vegetarians who consumed the same number of daily calories (non-vegetarians consumed some of those calories in meat). Over five years, the non-vegetarians gained more weight.
People who follow a more plant-based eating plan also have more regular bowel movements. The more regular your bowel movements, the more rapidly you flush toxins from your system.
Non-meat eaters have more energy, lose an average of 24 pounds in their first year switching to a vegetarian lifestyle, and keep the weight off as long as five years later than meat eater do.
To Eat Meat or Not To Eat Meat
Although more studies are needed to confirm beyond a doubt whether the benefits of being a vegetarian are indeed better for your overall health, one thing is certain – a diet that contains more fruits and vegetables will reduce your risk of many chronic diseases.
Experts suggest that cutting meat out of your diet even one day a week will have a positive impact on your health.