Most people cannot even imagine a daily menu that does not include meat, not to mention giving up meat forever, and seeing everyone around do the same. However, specialists warn that in order to enjoy a better health and reduce disease risks, we need more fruits and vegetables. They also warn that the consumption of meat, especially red meat varieties, increases mortality risks. Here are two recent and relevant studies on the subject.
Meat vs. Fruits and Vegetables – Representative Research
- A study published in February 2017 in the International Journal of Epidemiology concluded that we need to consume 10 portions (800g) of fruits and vegetables every day in order to reduce risks of cardiovascular disease and cancer and prevent premature death.
- Another study published in May 2017 concluded that consuming red meat increases death risks through nine different causes, most related to heme iron, nitrates, and nitrites.
No matter at how many studies we look at and how many experts we ask, they will all say the same: fruits and vegetables are good and we should consume more of them; meat is bad and we should avoid it. No wonder so many people around the world choose to give up meat completely and become vegetarian!
In the U.S. alone, the number of adults who stay away from meat, poultry and fish is estimated to reach or come close to 8 million. Out of them, approximately 25% do not consume any type of animal-based products.
Nutritionists expect these numbers to grow as people become better informed and more responsible regarding their health. Vegetarianism is also an answer to the global concern regarding resource exhaustion, so it should be worth some attention.
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Vegetarianism under the Microscope
As you know, vegetarianism is a lifestyle that involves banning meat from your menu. The different stands its adepts took throughout time regarding the suitability of the other animal products in their diet, have lead to the development of several different varieties. Below are some notable varieties of vegetarianism.
- Vegans – They do not eat animal products at all
- Lacto-ovo vegetarians – The only animal products they eat are eggs and dairy products
- Lacto-vegetarians – They consume dairy products
- Ovo-vegetarians – They consume eggs
- Partial vegetarians – They avoid red meat but they may eat poultry and/or fish
Some people use these varieties as stages to give up animal products gradually. They begin by giving up red meat, they continue by excluding fish and poultry from their diet, and they finally eliminate eggs and dairy. Why the sacrifice? For the numerous benefits at stake:
Top 10 Benefits of Vegetarianism
- Higher intake of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants
- Lower risk of heart disease
- Lower risk of cancer
- Improved digestion
- Lower risk of type 2 diabetes
- Lower toxicity
- Weight loss
- Better mood
- Longer life expectancy
With so many benefits at stake, it is no wonder some feel people will slowly but surely give up their meat eating habits in favor of fruits and vegetables. What consequences would such a choice bring about? The obvious one is that people would live longer and healthier lives and many premature deaths would be avoided. The rest of them are worth reviewing separately.
What Would Happen If Everyone Suddenly Went Vegetarian
If vegetarianism became a lifestyle for everyone on our planet, it would probably bring about both positive and negative changes:
Positive Consequences Of Vegetarianism
- Since people would no longer consume meat from animals raised with antibiotics, antibiotic resistant infections could disappear.
- There would be a significant drop, of approximately 60%, in food-related emissions, especially methane.
- The unused pastures could be re-purposed into native habitats and forests, thus alleviating climate change and supporting biodiversity.
- Farming would develop, leading to the creation of new crops and the appearance of new fruits and vegetables in everyone’s menu.
- Everyone currently raising cattle or working in the meat processing industry would need retraining for a new career. If they do not or they fail to find a new job, the result could be mass unemployment.
- Biodiversity may suffer, considering that livestock grazing helps shape the land, and the arid lands that are now home and food source to livestock herds could turn into desert.
- Traditions like the Thanksgiving turkey could be lost, and the nomads raising cattle for a living could lose their source of income and their cultural identity, being forced to settle and find other occupations.
- New health conditions may appear, as vegetarianism could lead to several important nutrient deficiencies: protein, vitamins D, K, E, and B12, calcium, zinc, and Omega-3 fatty acids. In order to avoid them, people would need supplements, and this could boost the dietary supplements and/or pharmaceutical industry.
The Worst Thing That Could Happen If the World Turned Vegetarian
When we imagine the future, we usually choose to hope for the best and ignore the rest. In the meat vs. vegetarianism debate, we tend to forget that meat hasn’t always been the health hazard, as it is today. On the contrary, it was one of the most important foods in our ancestors’ diet.
We turned it into a health hazard when we stopped feeding our livestock with grass and cereals and we chose to boost their growth and their health with hormones and antibiotics. We signed our own death sentence when we began using chemicals in our processed foods.
So who can guarantee we will not do the same with fruits and vegetables?
In fact, we are already doing it. Those health studies showing how beneficial fruits and veggies are for our health surely didn’t use supermarket varieties, stuffed with pesticides. Vegetarianism advocates have certainly not taken into account all the chemicals used when processing fruits and vegetables.
Before we compare lifestyles, we need to establish and maintain an objective perspective. If you analyze things objectively, you will see that meat consumption is not such a big problem, and vegetarianism is not necessarily the best solution. Our biggest problem, food-wise, is that we are poisoning ourselves.
The Bottom Line – Should We All Become Vegetarians?
As shown above, meat has its health benefits. Moreover, its health risks come from the way the livestock is raised and the processing industry. The same health risks could come from fruits and vegetables treated with pesticides and fertilizers.
Therefore, instead of asking ourselves which foods we should eliminate and what consequences that could have, why not start making efforts to eliminate all those harmful chemicals and reduce processing to minimum? This way, we can enjoy both excellent health and the excellent taste and satiety that come with meat.
Have you ever tried to embrace the vegetarian diet? Would you follow it for the rest of your life? What do you think would happen if everyone went vegetarian? We would love to learn your opinion on the subject, so don’t hesitate to express it in a comment below!
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