The diet we choose impacts all aspects of our health and affects our environment. People from various backgrounds and cultures have chosen to go vegetarian, and the diet is fast becoming mainstream. In fact, some suggest the question should no longer be “Why are you a vegetarian or a vegan?” but, “Why are you not?”
Research has linked the vegetarian diet to longevity. “According to a Loma Linda University study, vegetarians live about seven years longer and vegans about fifteen years longer than meat eaters” (The Compassionate Diet).
A vegetarian or vegan diet, when comprised of nutritious whole foods, has a significant impact on health. To ensure good health, merely selecting foods that don’t contain animal products is not enough. After all, some of the best-selling cookies are vegan! Fruits and vegetables are always a better choice to fulfill a craving for sweets.
In addition to safeguarding our health, choosing a vegetarian diet helps the environment. In our quest to provide food for 8 billion people on our planet, we need to protect our water supply, the quality of our air, and the interconnectedness of life.
Commonly asked questions about reasons for choosing a whole food, plant-based diet:
Is it true that becoming vegetarian could help alleviate global warming?
If current dietary habits and trends continue, by 2050 we will experience a 51% increase in current levels of environmental markers like greenhouse gas emissions, CO2, rising temperatures, and an increased carbon footprint associated with food production.
These factors are based on current trends in global population growth and on the fact that as populations get wealthier, people tend to eat more meat. Between now and 2050, a global switch to diets that rely far less on meat and far more on vegetables, fruits, and other plant foods could reduce food-related greenhouse gas emissions by two-thirds.
What are the health benefits of becoming a vegetarian?
According to a Harvard Medical School publication, “Plant-based eating is recognised as not only nutritionally sufficient but also as a way to reduce the risk for much chronic illness.” (Harvard Health, December 4, 2017). In one of the largest studies that combined data from five studies involving more than 76,000 participants, vegetarians were 25% less likely to die of heart disease. Research also suggested that a predominantly plant-based diet could reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes by 50%.
Eating a vegetarian diet is definitely healthier than eating a standard American diet. Plant foods are low in saturated fat and high in the essential vitamins and minerals needed for optimal health. Many studies have also shown that a plant-based diet can lower chances of developing cancer and Alzheimer’s disease as well as lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
How does becoming a vegetarian foster mental and emotional health?
The vegetarian diet has a calming effect and improved mental and emotional health. Two studies published in the Nutrition Journal (2010 and 2012) reported that after 2 weeks, people who regularly ate meat or chicken daily reported better moods and less stress after switching to a vegetarian diet.
One study, published in Nutrition Journal looked at the mental health and mood of vegetarians and meat eaters. This study found that vegetarian participants had healthier mood profiles and were less likely to report depression than participants who ate meat.
Adapted with permission from VeggieFestChicago.com