3 December 2017
The Wonders of Vegetarianism
Several studies have reached the conclusion, “Those who consume animal products can expect to experience poorer health and a shorter life span” (Deckers, 577). This implies that a plant-based diet could contribute to a longer lifespan. So, it raises the question, why do people continue to eat animal products if it leads to poor health. Many people argue against vegetarianism. Although many people resist the idea, once they are properly educated about vegetarianism, they are more likely to adopt the practice.
Vegetarians have different practices and beliefs. According to Swinder et al., “Vegetarianism refers to the belief and practice of eating foods that have been obtained exclusively from the vegetable kingdom” (1205). The practice asks that individuals avoid consuming food items such as meat, fish, and poultry. However, there are different variations such as, Lacto-ovo vegetarians that also eat dairy and eggs. People’s reasons for becoming vegetarians vary; for instance, some are due to religion and other based on ethical reasons such as preventing animals from suffering. Others choose vegetarianism because of its many health benefits.
One of the primary health benefits of a vegetarian diet is that it helps prevent disease. As stated by Fox et al., “Vegetarianism was associated historically with health in various notions of bodily and spiritual purity” (qtd. in You Are What You Eat 2586). That belief is still persistent today, and studies support it. A vegetarian diet is considered healthier than the typical American diet that consists of many animal products. It can help in the prevention of heart disease and reduce the risk of cancer. Vegetarians mortality for heart disease is much lower than the rate of meat eaters.
Some argue that a vegetarian diet can help people live longer. Swinder et al., claims that switching to a vegetarian diet could add about 13 years to an individual’s life (1207). A prolonged lifespan is the result of a decrease in the consumption of saturated fats that clog people’s arteries. Also, people who lead a plant-based diet have more energy and a stronger immune system, which also contributes to a long, disease-free life. Those who support this idea often use Japanese people from Okinawa as an example. They are considered to live longer than most, and their diet is mostly based on rice, soy, and vegetable products.
In recent years, vegetarian diets have increased in popularity because they can aid in weight-loss. Kelly argued that, “Following a vegetarian diet can be nutritionally superior to any other way of eating” (“Is It Better to be a Vegetarian?”). It is considered one of the healthiest ways to eat because plant foods are filled with nutrients, and they are often very low in calories. This could be the reason why vegetarians have a lower body mass index, lower cholesterol levels, and lower rates of type 2 diabetes. It should be noted, however, that the diet’s impact on weight loss depends on the type of vegetables consumed and their preparation. Eating a greasy veggie burger will not contribute to weight loss.
People adopt the vegetarian lifestyle based on several reasons. Another reason is related to respect for animals. Individuals choose a vegetarian diet to avoid the unnecessary killing of animals. Deckers states approximately ten billion animals are killed for human consumption every year (585). Most of those animals are factory-farmed and experience all kinds of cruelty. They are stuffed in metal or wire cages and spend most, if not all their life in there. They don’t get to do normal animal things, like raise a family, wander around, graze, or see the light of day. While choosing not to eat animals will not completely eliminate animal slaughter, it will help decrease the number of animals that have to suffer.
A common criticism of vegetarianism is that it does not necessarily lead to a healthier life. According to Kelly, “Protein is essential for building muscle mass, amino function, fighting disease and healing” (“Is a Vegetarian Diet Really Better for You”). Vegetarians often consume a very low amount of protein; therefore, their health might suffer. Fortunately, there are options when it comes to keeping an adequate protein intake. Beans, lentils, soy, buckwheat, spinach, and guavas are some examples of plants that are high in protein.
Despite criticism, research has shown that a vegetarian diet can lead to improved health and a longer lifespan. It is important to educate people about the meaning, purpose, and reasons for adopting a plant-based diet. In addition to health benefits, vegetarianism spares animals from unnecessary suffering and pain. Those who are considering adopting this new lifestyle would benefit from researching the topic, familiarizing themselves with the food options available, and seeking the support of somebody with more experience on the subject.
Deckers, Jan. “Vegetarianism, Sentimental or Ethical?” Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, vol. 22, 2009, pp. 573-597, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10806-009-9176-3. Accessed 29 November 2017.
Fox, Nick, and Katie J. Ward. “You are what you eat? Vegetarianism, health and identity.” Social Science and Medicine, vol. 66, 2008, pp. 2585-2595, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18378056. Accessed 29 November 2017.
Kelly, Diana. “Is It Better To Be A Vegetarian?” WebMD, 2017, https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/is-it-better-to-be-a-vegetarian#1. Accessed 29 November 2017.
Swinder, Janda, and Philip Trocchia. “Vegetarianism: Toward a Greater Understanding.” Psychology and Marketing, vol. 18, no. 12, 2001, pp. 1205-1240, https://foodethics.univie.ac.at/fileadmin/user_upload/inst_ethik_wiss_dialog/Janda__S._2001_Veg._Towards_greater_Understanding.pdf. Accessed 29 November 2017.