People become vegetarians for a variety of reasons. Some believe it will improve their health, some want to reduce environmental impact and others love animals and are opposed to eating them.
A vegetarian diet reduces the risk of many chronic diseases, such as obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and some cancers. Vegetarians consume no animal fat and less cholesterol, instead eating more fibre and food rich in healthy anti-oxidants. Each year we raise and eat 65 billion animals (which equates to 9 animals for every person on earth) and it’s having a major impact on the planet. People’s passion for eating meat comes at a cost to the planet. Nearly a third of the land across the globe is already devoted to raising animals for meat or milk, and around 30 % of the crops grown are fed to animals.
Recent reports suggest livestock are responsible for 14.5% of man-made greenhouse gas emissions - the same amount produced by all the world's cars, planes, boats and trains. If that wasn't scary enough, meat consumption is predicted to double in the next 40 years, as people globally get wealthier.
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.
As well as this, 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 non-vegetarian eats annually would cut individual food bills by an average of $4,000 a year.
Furthermore, 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 and 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 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?