On March 13th, I decided I was going to become a vegetarian. This was always something I wanted to try out, and I always joked that college had made me a vegetarian because I was too broke to eat out and too busy to cook myself anything fancy at home. So, I figured, why not go all in?
The Tipping Point
Why now? It’s actually a funny story. Full disclosure, I first became a vegetarian for extra credit in class. You see, I’m taking this sustainability class abroad and for extra points we were given the option to Take One Step and then apply for this Green Steps Program. The Green Steps Program is what we actually get extra credit for and though I didn’t get accepted into that, I kept up with my sustainability promise and it has been much easier than I expected, especially when I remind myself about the benefits of this way of life.
1. Risk of diseases is lowered.
Since vegetarian diets are more healthy than average diets, it’s one of the best ways to curb [or entirely prevent] coronary artery disease. Since vegetarians consume less cholesterol and animal fat, they tend to consume for fiber and antioxidant-rich produce, allowing them to live longer and healthier.
Furthermore, the CDC reported that food-borne illnesses bring about 325,000 hospital visits and 5,000 deaths from 76 million illnesses in the United States PER YEAR. The most common foods contaminated in these instances are poultry, meat, fish and seafood.
2. Weight loss is possible.
For Americans, the average diet is extremely low in plant-based foods and complex carbohydrates and extremely high in processed foods and saturated fats. 64% of adults are overweight. However, a study done by the Preventative Medicine Research Institute showed that overweight people who followed a vegetarian diet lost an average of 24 pounds in the first year, which they kept off 5 years later.
3. You’ll live longer.
In fact, you’ll live an average of 13 years longer. People who consume meat tend to die much sooner and with more disabilities than those who are vegetarian. This is because animal products clog your arteries, slow down your immune system and decrease your energy.
According to a 30 year study of over 600 Okinawan centenarians (residents of Okinawa, Japan), these people have the longest life expectancy of anyone in the world. Why? Because their diet consists of soy, vegetables, fiber-rich fruits and unrefined complex carbohydrates.
4. You’ll have more energy.
Instead of getting that hit and run of energy, good nutrition will leave you with that slow burn of usable energy that will keep you from hitting the snooze button in the morning.
5. You’ll reduce pollution.
According the the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), runoff from chemical and animal waste in factory farms is responsible for over 173,000 miles of polluted streams and rivers, making it one of the biggest threats to water quality. This pollution comes from confined animal areas, pesticide spraying, irrigation, plowing, fertilizing and even harvesting.
6. You’ll save money.
Americans spend 10 percent of their food allowance on meat. If you replace this meat money with a vegetarian diet, you’ll save an average of $4,000 per year.
7. You’ll save animals.
Every year, 10 billion animals are killed for human consumption. And, while these animals are alive, they are living no kind of life at most farms. Kept in tight, enclosed areas that they cannot even turn around in, the whole purpose of their life is to give us 5 minutes of satisfaction while eating dinner. Farmed animals aren’t protected from cruelty under the law and are actually exempt from the law in most state anticruelty laws.
8. You’ll reduce world hunger.
Animals raised to slaughter eat 70 percent of all of the grain produced in the United States; that’s 5 times more than all of the Americans combined. If this grain being produced was fed to people instead, nearly 800 million would not go hungry today. On top of that, this exported grain would increase the United States’ GDP by $80 billion PER YEAR.
9. You’ll avoid toxic chemicals.
Almost 95% of the pesticide residue in an average American’s diet comes from fish, meat and dairy products. On top of this, many products are laced in hormones and steroids; always read the label!
10. You’ll reduce global warming.
Livestock is responsible for generating more greenhouse gases than every vehicle in the world combined. This pollution is mostly from the nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide gasses made by manure.
A few weeks ago, I decided to go vegetarian and I don’t regret this decision one bit. Sure, I still am working on figuring out my new Subway order and finding the right foods that work for me, but this transition was so much easier than I had imagined. I challenge you to try it out for yourself, even if it’s a small goal (like 2 weeks) and just see how you feel! Who knows, maybe you could join the veggie clan, too.