The benefits of vegetarianism

Caitlin Ryan is a junior English major

I stopped eating meat when I started thinking about the chain of events that led to the animal on my plate. From the slaughtering of the animal, the production process, to the bloated feeling left in my stomach, eating meat was not worth it. 

 There are many reasons why a person may choose to eliminate meat, poultry, and fish from their diet and practice vegetarianism. For some, it is for health reasons like avoiding hormones used in animal products. For others, the diet has to do with religion, animal rights, or environmental concerns. 

Growing up, I never liked eating meat, and I decided to finally become a vegetarian when I learned about the benefits of a vegetarian diet. 

We all know a meat-eater who is left shocked after watching films like “Supersize Me” or “Food Inc.” because of the graphic exposure of the meat industry’s environmental harm, animal cruelty, and negative health effects. My turning point was a presentation I attended in high school where a field educator from the Ethical Choices Program, a nonprofit organization, explained how the human body isn’t anatomically meant to consume meat. 

 I learned that humans were not designed to eat meat because our body structure resembles omnivorous or herbivorous animals. Typical meat-eating animals have razor sharp incisors and a more expansive jaw used to capture prey. 

Second, our digestive system isn’t intended to digest meat. Carnivores have short intestinal tracts that allow meat to pass through quickly, while humans’ intestinal tracts are much longer, like those of an herbivore. Our longer digestive tract is meant to extract the nutrients from plant-based foods.

After learning this information, it made sense to me that I had a distaste for meat. On top of that, I was drawn to the health benefits of a vegetarian diet, especially pertaining to the risk reduction of chronic illnesses like heart disease, cancer, obesity, and diabetes. 

According to Healthline, a website that publishes on the health benefits of different diets, a vegetarian diet supports heart health by reducing the intake of cholesterol and saturated fat found in red meat. Substituting foods high in fiber stabilizes blood sugar levels. In turn, the high-fiber diet is preventative towards lower blood pressure. 

However, the article warns, “If you’re avoiding meat but only eating processed breads and pastas, excess sugar, and very little vegetables and fruits, you’re unlikely to reap many of the benefits of this diet.” Consuming alternative protein options like nuts, beans, tempeh, and tofu can naturally help supplement a vegetarian diet.  

Additionally, people who follow this diet should remain alert to protein, B-12, vitamin D, and fatty acid omega-3 deficiencies. This can be avoided by either taking a supplement or knowing which foods to eat. When done right, this diet can be transformative for physical health. 

A vegetarian diet is also an efficient way for consumers to hold producers accountable for their harmful practices. Going plant-based is important to resisting factory farming and fighting global warming because the food industry damages the environment. According to the Vegetarian Society, “The whole food production process of farm-to-plate totals 26% of all global greenhouse gas emissions.” 

To put that into perspective, the Vegetarian Society also shares that “by eating vegetarian food for a year you could save the same amount of emissions as a family taking a small car off the road for 6 months.” The world is heating rapidly, and a vegetarian diet is an effective way to actively oppose factory farming by boycotting their products. It also respects the lives of animals. 

It must be acknowledged that vegetarianism is a privilege for those who have access to fresh food, money to spend on food, and the space and time to prepare meals. Meat alternatives are expensive. However, meat is also expensive, and most grocery stores are stocked to support meatless diets. 

One of my favorite fresh meals to make are spring rolls. I chop up carrots, cucumber, avocado, and bell peppers, wrap them in rice paper, and enjoy the dish with a side of homemade peanut sauce. I’ll make a bunch and stick them in the fridge for later because being a full-time student and working part time keeps me busy. Meal prepping is a great way to eat fresh food while having a busy schedule. 

Many restaurants also offer vegetarian options, especially in San Francisco. Proteins are what drive up the prices on menus and if you want to add meat to a vegetarian option it’s usually an additional $3-4. Vegetarian alternatives are usually the cheapest. 

Knowing what I know now with my experience as a vegetarian, I don’t see myself ever going back to eating meat. I am committed to this conscience change out of respect for myself, the environment, and animals.

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