Meatless Monday (or Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday…)
By ALLYSAN SCATTERDAY
After becoming a vegetarian close to six years ago, it seems as though I am constantly facing the inevitable question of “why?” Why don’t you eat meat? Do you not like meat? Isn’t it hard? What can you actually eat? Do you really think you’re getting enough protein? And the questions have only become more frequent since arriving in Paris, the city that prides itself on foie gras and beef tartare—not exactly a vegetarian’s paradise.
For me, making the switch to vegetarianism was mostly health-related. My mom (a vegetarian and avid runner) had high cholesterol levels at a young age, and when I turned 17, my numbers were already high. However, I didn’t think it was anywhere within the realm of possibility for me to give up my beloved steak and bacon. Maybe I could be a vegetarian if it still included eating sausage, egg, and cheese biscuits every Friday on the way to school? I decided to give it a try for a month, though, and at the time I truly didn’t foresee it lasting longer than what were sure to be four extremely long weeks. Yet here we are—six years later, and not a sausage biscuit in sight.
I don’t know how to describe the transformation other than to say that I just felt “better on the inside.” My body felt so much cleaner in a way that I don’t know how to put into words. I was running and playing sports, and I felt like I had significantly more energy. And as miserable as I thought that I would be, I really didn’t miss meat at all. I waited and waited for the overwhelming cravings, and they honestly didn’t come. It wasn’t hard. I actually enjoyed the new things I was eating—and I felt better, too. For me, it became a no-brainer. It was something so simple that I could easily do and that would have such incredible effects on my personal health, on the environment, and on the rest of the world. There are few things I can think of that I can personally do that have such a huge impact.
I’m not, however, “that” vegetarian with PETA bumper stickers covering my Prius that I drive to riots outside of meat factories on the weekends. I believe that food choices are a very personal matter and I respect everyone’s rights to choose his or her own diet. However, I am passionate about the numerous benefits that a vegetarian diet can have on your health and life overall. I think it’s important to share with other’s the benefits that a meat-free diet can have, without pushing it on others or proclaiming that there is not other way to have a healthy diet. Whether it’s cutting back on your overall meat intake or mixing in a day without meat every now and then, it can have an enormous benefit on your personal health and wellbeing. Here are 10 reasons why:
- A vegetarian diet has shown to be beneficial in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, cancer (colorectal, breast, and ovarian), osteoporosis, renal disease, dementia, diverticular disease, gallstones, and rheumatoid arthritis, just to name a few.
- Switching from a standard “western” diet to a vegetarian diet can add up to 13 healthy years to your life.
- Cognitive and sexual dysfunction are delayed in vegetarians as compared to meat eaters.
- Vegetarians consume far less saturated, trans fat, cholesterol and processed foods while consuming far more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fiber.
- Your pesticide consumption will drastically decrease. 95% of pesticides in the western diet come from animal products—not including carcinogens, steroids, and hormones.
- Cutting meat out of your diet can inspire you to make and try new foods and cuisines that you would have never thought of trying before.
- You can help decrease pollution: the livestock industry is the largest contributor to water pollution, coastal dead zones, and coral reef degradation, not to mention the emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
- The livestock industry is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide compared to 13% from ALL types of transport.
- The 836 million tons of grain and corn used to feed livestock every year could more than adequately feed the 1.4 billion people living in poverty (in the United States, livestock consume five times the grain as the human population).
- Buying vegetables in place of meat would save the average person 4,000 U.S. dollars per year on groceries.
I’m not suggesting that it’s necessary to completely change your diet. I realize that the dietary choices that I make may not be possible and/or easy for everyone out there. I’m simply pointing out the facts and telling you that even the smallest reductions in your overall meat intake can have massive effects–and you probably won’t even notice a difference. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and I encourage everyone to at least give it a try.