Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet. Albert Einstein
What is Vegetarianism
Vegetarianism is the practice of not eating meat or some animal products, depending on the degree of vegetarianism.
There are various types of vegetarianism, each with its own benefits, but also its own difficulties. The first of the three main types, and most common, is Ovo-lacto. Ovo-lacto vegetarians eat no meat (red meat, poultry, or seafood), but do eat eggs and dairy products. The second type is Lacto. Lacto vegetarians do not eat meat or eggs, but do eat dairy products. The last, and strictest, of the types is vegans. Vegans do not eat meat, eggs, dairy products, foods containing animal by-products, or even honey. Vegans oftentimes do not even use products such as leather, angora, wool, silk, or any product tested on animals.
Besides the three main types, there are also people who choose not to eat red meat, but do eat poultry and seafood. There are also a few offshoots of vegetarianism, such as raw/living foodists and fruitatarians.
There are several reasons why people choose to become vegetarians. A few of the more common reasons are the health benefits, the terrible treatment of livestock animals, and harm to the environment.
Health benefits of vegetarianism are tremendous. A vegetarian diet will help prevent cancer, prevent heart disease, lower blood pressure, and prevent or even reverse diabetes. Eating less meat reduces your risk of a heart attack by 50%, and a vegan diet reduces the risk by 90%. A vegetarian diet also reduces the risk of E-coli. Diseases and bacteria often slip through meat inspection. Nine thousand US citizens become ill each year from contaminated meat.
Livestock are forced to live in terrible conditions, are treated horribly, and are brutally killed. They are often branded with hot irons, tails cut off, teeth removed, and castrated, all without anesthesia. The animals are malnourished so their meat will be the right color and texture. They are injected with harmful antibiotics, forcing the animal to grow up too fast. The rapid growth doesnt allow enough time for their vital organs to catch up with their body. They are usually kept in a tight wire cage, unable to move. Only more painelectrocution or a dull blade, ends their pain.
Raising livestock causes much damage to the environment. Half of the water in the United States goes to some agricultural production. However, while producing each pound of wheat uses twenty-five gallons, producing each pound of beef uses 2,500 gallons of water. Sixty four percent of US farmland is used to produce feed for livestock.
Twelve million children go hungry each night. If we used the farmland to produce food for humans, not cattle, we could feed 1.3 million of those children, maybe more. Two billion tons of wastes from livestock are produced each year. The waste (which is full of toxic chemicals, such as ammonia, nitrates, herbicides, and pesticides) eventually ends up in our lakes, streams, and groundwater. Also, many plants and animals become extinct due to the destruction of forests to raise livestock.
History of Vegetarianism
Our hominid ancestors evolved over a period of 24 million years, and for all but 1.5 million years, lived on an almost completely vegetarian diet (except for the occasional insect and grub). Since then, however, humans have changed their ways. However, a recent upward trend suggests that many of us may be returning to our natural diet.
Pythagoras was the prominent modern vegetarian. His Pythagorean diet discouraged the consumption of meat. Then his diet died out until the Manicheans in the early century AD. They were heretics with vegetarianism as one of their main ideas. Thomas Tyron was a prominent vegetarian of the 17th century. In the 18th century, a writer and dietician, Dr. William Lambe recommended a vegetarian diet as a cure for cancer. In the early 1800s, membership in the Vegetarian Society reached over 2,000. Now, it is a more acceptable lifestyle than decades ago. In 1994, more than 12.4 million Americans said they were vegetarians. The number is predicted to rise.
A vegetarian is not just limited to salad everyday. There are a huge variety of foods that can ensure a vegetarian gets proper nutrition. It is even possible for expecting mothers, young children, teenagers, and pets to be healthy on a vegetarian diet. Below is the vegetarian food pyramid, an important guide for vegetarians to follow.
In fact, vegetarians can get every essential nutrient from non-meat foods. Below is a list of nutrients that are harder for a vegetarian to get, and the foods in which they can be found.
Protein- Lentils, tofu, low-fat dairy products, nuts, seeds, tempeh, and peas.
Iron- Dried beans, spinach, chard, beet greens, leafy greens, blackstrap molasses, bulgar, prune juice, dried fruit, legumes, whole grains, cereals, and whole wheat breads.
Zinc- Whole grains, wheat bread, legumes, nuts, and tofu.
Vitamin B12- Dairy products, eggs, fortified foods (such as Grapenuts), some brands of nutritional yeast and soymilk, tempeh, and sea vegetables.
Calcium- Collard greens, broccoli, kale, low fat dairy products, turnip greens, tofu prepared with calcium, fortified soymilk, seeds, nuts, legumes, grain products, and calcium enriched orange juice.