What is vegetarianism?
Vegetarianism is a sustainable lifestyle that focuses on primarily eating food derived from plants. There are several types of vegetarians. Some consume dairy foods and milk, while others abstain entirely from any food product that comes from an animal. One thing they all have in common, though, is they rely primarily on plant-based foods for their nutritional needs. The decision to adopt a meat-free diet can be a complex one. People choose vegetarian diets for many reasons which may include personal preference, ethical reasons, and health concerns.
Why choose a vegetarian lifestyle?
- Ethical reasons
Many people choose to become vegetarians for ethical reasons. They avoid eating meat because they do not want animals to be killed, harmed, or exploited in any way. All sentient creatures have a right to life and freedom, hence removing animal products from one’s diet is the most obvious way to take a stand against animal cruelty and animal exploitation everywhere.
The environment is an additional concern for vegetarians. The production of meat and other animal products places a heavy burden on the environment – from crops and water required to feed the animals, to the transport and other processes involved from farm to fork. The vast amount of grain feed required for meat production is a significant contributor to deforestation, habitat loss and species extinction. Animal waste from factory farms may pollute the land and water, and trees and forests are cut down to make room for grazing cattle. Ecosystems and habitats can be changed or damaged by fishing. For example, bottom-trawled fishing gear can have an impact on vulnerable seafloor habitats – places where endangered or slow-growing species such as sea pens and sponges grow.
- Health benefits
Many people make the switch to a vegetarian diet because of the potential health benefits. Vegetarian eating patterns have been associated with improved health outcomes including lower levels of obesity, reduced risk of heart disease and lower blood pressure. A plant-based diet is potentially lower in calories and saturated fats providing more dietary fiber and higher amounts of vitamins and minerals. These characteristics, in addition to other lifestyle factors, may contribute to many health benefits among vegetarians. A vegetarian diet has also been said to reduce the risk for chronic degenerative diseases such as diabetes, and cancers of the colon, breast, prostate, stomach, and lungs.
It is very interesting to note that a healthy diet can play a huge role in living a longer life. Studies have proven that having a plant-based diet can add more years to your life! One study carried out by a team of researchers at Loma Linda University found that vegetarians may live about 10 years longer than non-vegetarians. A similar study done by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that the five key factors to living a longer life include eating a healthy diet, exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, and not drinking alcohol. The factor that drew the most emphasis was eating a healthy diet, particularly a plant-based diet.