I have been a meat-eater ever since I was a child, but that all changed earlier this year when I signed up for a 6 month long “professional plant-based certification cooking class”. I had no idea that it meant vegan cooking. And so my journey began! The class taught me how to prepare healthy meatless meals. I found that I didn’t really miss eating meat as long as the meal was hearty and filling.
The class also opened my eyes to the health benefits of eating a plant-based diet and how it reduced my carbon footprint. My tipping point for giving up meat is the fact that my husband and I have been struggling with unexplained infertility for the last two years. I don’t want to sit around and wait for something to change, I am stepping up to the plate and trying something new. Will it make a difference? I don’t know, but it can’t hurt either.
Benefits of being vegetarian…
- Eat more Fruits and Vegetables – According to the USDA half of what you eat should be fruits and veggies. However, most Americans are eating more meat than produce. By eliminating meat, you allow more room for fruits and veggies.
- Lose Weight – In an Oxford University study of approximately 38,000 Americans, researchers found that meat-eaters tended to have the highest body mass index (BMI) for their age and vegans the lowest, with vegetarians in the middle. The most likely reason is that vegetarian meals tend to be richer in antioxidants and fiber, which keeps your regular and helps to lose weight.
- Live Longer – You can add approximately 13 years to your life and be healthier in your latter years if you stay on a vegetarian diet, according to Michael F. Roizen, MD, author of The RealAge Diet. ”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.”
- Reduce Hormone Intake – Ranchers inject beef cows with hormones to make them grow 20% faster and dairy cows to make them produce 15% more milk. The FDA says that these hormones do not affect us, but it still concerns me that I am ingesting these unnatural hormones.
- Feel Better – After 2 weeks of eating a vegetarian diet my husband told me that he felt better than he had in years. And I have to agree. I tend to have more energy and feel motivated for the day.
- Save Money – Meat is expensive compared to grains and legumes.
- Less likely to get Cancer – The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) determined that there is convincing scientific evidence that red meat increased cancer risk and that processed meat, saturated/animal fat, and heavily cooked meat were also convincing of increased risk of cancer.1
- Eat more Humanly – Millions of animals are subject to confinement, overcrowding, and disfigurement only to face an equally cruel demise in the slaughterhouse (which, by the way is no picnic for its human workers). In the words of Paul McCartney, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, we’d all be vegetarian.”
- Reduce my carbon footprint – According to the FAO, 18% of global emission result from livestock. Cutting out beef, pork, and poultry can cut your footprint in half! Reducing your carbon footprint will help reduce global warming and will help the environment.
I have decided to not become full fledge vegan due to the lack of certain nutrients such as calcium, iron, and vitamin B12. Also, I have found that my friends, family, and restaurants can create vegetarian meals, but vegan is beyond their comfort zone. To ensure that I receive enough protein and omega-3’s in my diet, I have decided to eat wild-caught fish. Which, I guess makes me a pescatarian!
Update as of August 2015: Since writing this post I have decided to incorporate white meat back into my diet, but only a very small portion size. Giving up such a huge food source for 6 months, was a challenge, but well worth it. I learned that I can have self-control and that meat does not have to be the staple ingredient at the dinner table.
1. World Cancer Research Fund. Food, nutrition, physical activity, and the prevention of cancer: A global perspective. American Institute of Cancer Research. Washington, DC:2007.