Why Go Veg?

go veg

People are drawn to vegetarianism by all sorts of motives. Some of us want to live longer, healthier lives or do our part to reduce pollution. Others have made the switch because we want to preserve Earth’’s natural resources or because we’’ve always loved animals and are ethically opposed to eating them.

Thanks to an abundance of scientific research that demonstrates the health and environmental benefits of a plant-based diet, even the federal government recommends that we consume most of our calories from grain products, vegetables and fruits. And no wonder: An estimated 70 percent of all diseases, including one-third of all cancers, are related to diet. A vegetarian diet reduces the risk for chronic degenerative diseases such as obesity, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and certain types of cancer including colon, breast, prostate, stomach, lung and esophageal cancer.

Why go veg? Chew on these reasons:

You’ll ward off disease. Vegetarian diets are more healthful than the average American diet, particularly in preventing, treating or reversing heart disease and reducing the risk of cancer. A low-fat vegetarian diet is the single most effective way to stop the progression of coronary artery disease or prevent it entirely. Cardiovascular disease kills 1 million Americans annually and is the leading cause of death in the United States. But the mortality rate for cardiovascular disease is lower in vegetarians than in nonvegetarians, says Joel Fuhrman, MD, author of Eat to Live: The Revolutionary Formula for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss. A vegetarian diet is inherently healthful because vegetarians consume less animal fat and cholesterol (vegans consume no animal fat or cholesterol) and instead consume more fiber and more antioxidant-rich produce——another great reason to listen to Mom and eat your veggies!

You’ll keep your weight down. The standard American diet—high in saturated fats and processed foods and low in plant-based foods and complex carbohydrates——is making us fat and killing us slowly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and a division of the CDC, the National Center for Health Statistics, 64 percent of adults and 15 percent of children aged 6 to 19 are overweight and are at risk of weight-related ailments including heart disease, stroke and diabetes. A study conducted from 1986 to 1992 by Dean Ornish, MD, president and director of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California, found that overweight people who followed a low-fat, vegetarian diet lost an average of 24 pounds in the first year and kept off that weight 5 years later. They lost the weight without counting calories or carbs and without measuring portions or feeling hungry.

You’ll live longer. If you switch from the standard American diet to a vegetarian diet, you can add about 13 healthy years to your life, says Michael F. Roizen, MD, author of The RealAge Diet: Make Yourself Younger with What You Eat. ”People who consume saturated, four-legged fat have a shorter life span and more disability at the end of their lives. Animal products clog your arteries, zap your energy and slow down your immune system. Meat eaters also experience accelerated cognitive and sexual dysfunction at a younger age.”

Want more proof of longevity? Residents of Okinawa, Japan, have the longest life expectancy of any Japanese and likely the longest life expectancy of anyone in the world, according to a 30-year study of more than 600 Okinawan centenarians. Their secret: a low-calorie diet of unrefined complex carbohydrates, fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, and soy.

You’ll build strong bones. When there isn’’t enough calcium in the bloodstream, our bodies will leach it from existing bone. The metabolic result is that our skeletons will become porous and lose strength over time. Most health care practitioners recommend that we increase our intake of calcium the way nature intended——through foods. Foods also supply other nutrients such as phosphorus, magnesium and vitamin D that are necessary for the body to absorb and use calcium.

People who are mildly lactose-intolerant can often enjoy small amounts of dairy products such as yogurt, cheese and lactose-free milk. But if you avoid dairy altogether, you can still get a healthful dose of calcium from dry beans, tofu, soymilk and dark green vegetables such as broccoli, kale, collards and turnip greens.

You’ll reduce your risk of food-borne illnesses. The CDC reports that food-borne illnesses of all kinds account for 76 million illnesses a year, resulting in 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths in the United States. According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), foods rich in protein such as meat, poultry, fish and seafood are frequently involved in food-borne illness outbreaks.

You’ll ease the symptoms of menopause. Many foods contain nutrients beneficial to perimenopausal and menopausal women. Certain foods are rich in phytoestrogens, the plant-based chemical compounds that mimic the behavior of estrogen. Since phytoestrogens can increase and decrease estrogen and progesterone levels, maintaining a balance of them in your diet helps ensure a more comfortable passage through menopause. Soy is by far the most abundant natural source of phytoestrogens, but these compounds also can be found in hundreds of other foods such as apples, beets, cherries, dates, garlic, olives, plums, raspberries, squash and yams. Because menopause is also associated with weight gain and a slowed metabolism, a low-fat, high-fiber vegetarian diet can help ward off extra pounds.

You’ll have more energy. Good nutrition generates more usable energy——energy to keep pace with the kids, tackle that home improvement project or have better sex more often, Michael F. Roizen, MD, says in The RealAge Diet. Too much fat in your bloodstream means that arteries won’’t open properly and that your muscles won’’t get enough oxygen. The result? You feel zapped. Balanced vegetarian diets are naturally free of cholesterol-laden, artery-clogging animal products that physically slow us down and keep us hitting the snooze button morning after morning. And because whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables are so high in complex carbohydrates, they supply the body with plenty of energizing fuel.

You’ll be more ‘regular.’ Eating a lot of vegetables necessarily means consuming more fiber, which pushes waste out of the body. Meat contains no fiber. People who eat lower on the food chain tend to have fewer instances of constipation, hemorrhoids and diverticulitis.

You’ll help reduce pollution. Some people become vegetarians after realizing the devastation that the meat industry is having on the environment. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), chemical and animal waste runoff from factory farms is responsible for more than 173,000 miles of polluted rivers and streams. Runoff from farmlands is one of the greatest threats to water quality today. Agricultural activities that cause pollution include confined animal facilities, plowing, pesticide spraying, irrigation, fertilizing and harvesting.

You’ll avoid toxic chemicals. The EPA estimates that nearly 95 percent of the pesticide residue in the typical American diet comes from meat, fish and dairy products. Fish, in particular, contain carcinogens (PCBs, DDT) and heavy metals (mercury, arsenic, lead, cadmium) that can’’t be removed through cooking or freezing. Meat and dairy products can also be laced with steroids and hormones, so be sure to read the labels on the dairy products you purchase.

You’ll help reduce famine. About 70 percent of all grain produced in the United States is fed to animals raised for slaughter. The 7 billion livestock animals in the United States consume five times as much grain as is consumed directly by the American population. “If all the grain currently fed to livestock were consumed directly by people, the number of people who could be fed would be nearly 800 million,” says David Pimentel, professor of ecology at Cornell University. If the grain were exported, it would boost the US trade balance by $80 billion a year.

You’ll spare animals. Many vegetarians give up meat because of their concern for animals. Ten billion animals are slaughtered for human consumption each year. And, unlike the farms of yesteryear where animals roamed freely, today most animals are factory farmed: —crammed into cages where they can barely move and fed a diet tainted with pesticides and antibiotics. These animals spend their entire lives in crates or stalls so small that they can’’t even turn around. Farmed animals are not protected from cruelty under the law——in fact, the majority of state anticruelty laws specifically exempt farm animals from basic humane protection.

You’ll save money. Meat accounts for 10 percent of Americans’’ food spending. Eating vegetables, grains and fruits in place of the 200 pounds of beef, chicken and fish each nonvegetarian eats annually would cut individual food bills by an average of $4,000 a year.

Your dinner plate will be full of color. Disease-fighting phytochemicals give fruits and vegetables their rich, varied hues. They come in two main classes: carotenoids and anthocyanins. All rich yellow and orange fruits and vegetables——carrots, oranges, sweet potatoes, mangoes, pumpkins, corn—owe their color to carotenoids. Leafy green vegetables also are rich in carotenoids but get their green color from chlorophyll. Red, blue and purple fruits and vegetables——plums, cherries, red bell peppers——contain anthocyanins. Cooking by color is a good way to ensure you’re eating a variety of naturally occurring substances that boost immunity and prevent a range of illnesses.

It’’s a breeze. It’’s almost effortless these days to find great-tasting and good-for-you vegetarian foods, whether you’re strolling the aisles of your local supermarket or walking down the street at lunchtime. If you need inspiration in the kitchen, look no further than the internet, your favorite bookseller or your local vegetarian society’’s newsletter for culinary tips and great recipes. And if you’’re eating out, almost any ethnic restaurant will offer vegetarian selections. In a hurry? Most fast food and fast casual restaurants now include healthful and inventive salads, sandwiches and entrees on their menus. So rather than asking yourself why go vegetarian, the real question is: Why haven’’t you gone vegetarian?

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comments

I'm finishing my second week of being a vegetarian, and I feel great. It's part of a top-down change of diet for me, in conjunction with a large increase in exercise, and I've found that in the last two weeks I recover quicker from the exercise than when I was eating meat. Some of that is due to the weight loss I'm sure, but not having that garbage in my system has to be helping a great deal. I'm 41 years old, and and am ruing that I didn't do this years ago.

Jim - 2014-08-17 16:45:28

I've been reading a lot of recent reports lately that saturated fats from grass fed and grass finished animals that have been allowed to range freely is now considered good for you and good for the environment too. They say that saturated fats are needed for nutrition transport, cellular integrity, the brain, and for the protection of delicate omega-3 fatty acids. One report says that the government of Sweden has completely done away with recommending grain based, low fat diet in favor of a high fat diet with some meat and non-starchy vegetables cause they say that sugar and starchy carbohydrates are at the root of modern diseases, including obesity, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and brain wasting. Have you seen these reports? Could you let me know the recent science that refutes them.

Robert Magness - 2014-08-16 23:30:05

This article was very informative. Thanks

calvin owens - 2014-08-16 21:34:20

I'd been kicking around the idea of becoming a vegetarian for about a year and 3 weeks ago, I did it. Cold turkey. I have multiple health issues and am not yet 40 years old!! I had to change something. I may eventually go vegan but for now it's not happening. :-D Hubby is slowly joining me. I think my body is detoxing because I currently have a sinus infection and overall ickiness. But I haven't have any cravings for meat yet and I hope it stays that way because I'm not strong in the willpower department. Good luck to me and all of you!

Marlena Hoskins - 2014-08-13 20:34:06

I have been a vegetarian for more than ten years now (since my childhood) and vegan for about a year and a half now and I love it! aniqadreams.blogspot.com

Aniqa - 2014-08-06 19:28:38

i think i might go vegatarian

swag - 2014-08-05 18:58:46

I have became a vegan just 4 months ago and it's have been a hard journey. The lifestyle is healthier and gives more energy. I am 14yrs old and I finally feel that I'm making a difference in this world! Not only for me but for the animals 2

Evelyn Pichardo - 2014-08-03 16:42:00

I am 2 weeks being vegeterian and almost, working on bein 100% vegan. I have to admit I had a hard 1st week with detoxing- flu like symptoms. I never knew how toxic meat was to my body and I am more "regular" now in the last 2wks then I have been my whole life! I don't miss or crave meat:) I was an avid Atkins goer... In hopes to loose weight but ended up loosing a little weight and feeling like crap the whole time. I have dropped 1 pound but this time weight loss wasn't my goal but overall health was and it truely has been an amazing experience! Thank you for this site!!!!

Kelli - 2014-08-03 16:05:21

Glad to see so many people taking a stance on something they believe. Too often these days, people fail to ponder the consequences of the actions of their everyday lives. I have always enjoyed--relished, even--the flavors of meat. It was a difficult addiction to give up. However, the spiritual satisfaction far outweighs the inclinations of my taste buds. Reduction of energy consumption (and consumption in general) is another topic of which we can make great personal strides.

Justin - 2014-08-02 19:19:07

I've been a vegetarian for a couple weeks and I love it! I ran ran faster and I have been getting stronger. My mom doesn't eat meat once a week and I used to do that too but now I don't eat meat at all! My dad isn't going to because he says human life should be above animals and for religious qualities but there's nothing wrong with caring about animals AND humans! It doesn't matter what others say they might not understand your reasons but one day if anyone ask me I'll be glad to say that I'm a vegetarian!

Tanya - 2014-07-29 20:37:00

I love a karma free meal!

Rocky - 2014-07-29 12:30:14

My name is Alexandria, I'm 15 almost 16. Ever since I was 8 years old I've always wanted to try vegetarianism but I never really had any modivation, but recently I've been watching videos showing how they prepare animals for slaughter and how they're treated, it makes me sick. I only new the benefits of being vegetarian was helping aleast a few animals. I could never of imagined all the health benifits on top of that. It's incredible. This has given me so much more modivation. Thank you:)

Alexandria - 2014-07-25 03:51:34

Hi! My name is Lilly and i am considering going vegetarian, but my parents told me it's stupid and they wont let me.(i'm 13) I did go vegetarian for over a year with my sister when i was 8, but then our parents started forcing us to eat meat. They would put it in our food without us knowing. for example, putting chicken broth in mashed potatoes, we wouldn't know until we tasted it. How can I convince them to let me go vegetarian.

Lilly - 2014-07-22 03:30:22

Hi Olivia, I'm 26 and just went vegetarian. Because I'm out on my own it was very easy, but when I go home to visit my parents, they just don't get it. I've told them many, many times "I'm vegetarian now for spiritual reasons," and they still offer me chicken. My mom told me "Just eat the baked beans. They only have bacon in them." So, I'm not finding very much at home support either. My suggestion to you is this: they might not be aware of how delicious and filling vegetarian food can be. You're 15 and need to learn how to cook for yourself (if you don't already). Why don't you volunteer to make dinner for them two to three times a week (ease them into it) and pick something simple from this site? Pretty soon, they'll likely be more open to buying you mushrooms instead of hamburger. Whenever I cook vegetarian meals for my family, they are always impressed that they are so satisfying. Give it a try and be open with your parents about how you feel on this topic. They need not go vegetarian themselves, but they can support you in small ways to make your decision a success. Believe me, I know- my fiancee loves his meat but agreed to eat vegetarian with me two meals a day (most of the time he goes three just because it makes me happy). People will be supportive if you're open with them and aren't preachy about it. Don't make it a big deal- vegetarianism is just another word for [good] food.

Caitlyn - 2014-07-17 21:42:50

I totally agree with you. I'd like to stop eating meat completely but the problem is I am a fifteen year old girl living in middle class with parents that could couldn't care less about this issue. I don't think they would support me and would tell me to eat it any way. I could wait till I'm eighteen, but I feel really strong about this topic. Any advice?

Olivia - 2014-07-15 17:46:05