October 2013 is officially International Vegetarian Awareness month. While many of you reading will already be full-time vegetarians, October is the perfect time to try a vegetarian diet and see if it’s for you. Not only are there plenty of resources out there right now to help guide you in the right direction, October is also one of the best times of year for delicious, freshly harvested seasonal vegetables. Have a look at our list of the many, many benefits of cutting back your meat consumption or choosing a fully vegetarian diet, which will leave you wondering why you ever relied on the meat in the first place!
Benefits for you
Reduced exposure to hormones, drugs and other nasties
Every time you eat meat, you aren’t just eating a piece of an animal. You’re eating pesticides, a range of hormones and even antibiotics which were used as it was raised. These additives are thought to be one of the main causes of the many health problems linked with a carnivore diet such as cancer, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Extra sources of vitamins and minerals
If you try vegetarianism and exclude meat, it is far easier to introduce a range of healthy fruit and vegetables into your diet, such as apples, oranges, broccoli, kale, spinach, nuts and seeds. These are packed with vitamins and minerals which fight cancer, reduce inflammation and maintain a healthy digestive system.
Easier weight management
A vegetarian diet can make it easier to lose weight by cutting out fatty or processed meat products. By forcing you to put that little bit of extra thought into what you buy and eat, it becomes much easier to make healthier choices in your diet. And by cutting out meat and meat products completely, you reduce the levels of saturated fats in your diet, the fats which lead to weight gain, cholesterol and higher blood pressure.
Reduced risk of diabetes
A vegetarian diet can help the body to fight and prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. A diet rich in complex carbohydrates and fibre helps to control insulin levels. Complex carbohydrates release their energy slowly, unlike simple carbohydrates which release it quickly, leading to an insulin spike.
Many vegetarians can be noticed for their overall healthier-looking skin. Diets that are rich in water-based foods, fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants and vitamin C which boosts collagen production, making them great for fighting everything from teenage acne to ageing. Conversely, meat’s high hormone levels makes it one of the worst foods for reducing the appearance of acne or skin inflammation.
Cheaper food bills
Cutting meat out of your diet saves you approximately 20% off your food shopping each week.
Benefits for the environment
Vegetarian diets feed more people
Most of the food that is grown on the planet is grown to feed animals, which we then raise, kill and eat. By cutting out the “middle man” and growing food to be eaten by us humans, we would be able to reduce our environmental impact hugely, by taking livestock care, transport, slaughter and meat processing out of the equation. The process is also wasteful of resources, as meat feeds far less people than plants do. For every one meat eater, over 16 vegetarians can be fed on their diet!
Reduce impact on our forests
Not only is the growing of food to feed to livestock a waste of food and money, it also takes up large areas of land worldwide and is a significant contributor to deforestation. Thousands of hectars of rainforests have been felled in the past 30 years to make way for grazing cattle, as well as growing and harvesting palm oil. If we all ate less meat, the demand for grazing land would be lessened, and more of our rainforests would stand a chance of being preserved.
Alongside the food needed to feed and sustain livestock, huge amounts of water are needed for every animal used for its meat. 2500 gallons of water are needed to produce just a single pound of beef, compared to a mere 40 gallons needed to produce the equivalent in apples. Water is a precious resource which millions of people on this planet don’t have enough of. If there was less demand for meat, less water would be used in this wasteful manner.
The carbon emissions of the meat industry are some of the highest of any industry found on earth. Livestock farming alone is responsible for around 20% of all human carbon emissions. The gasses released from livestock and their manure, such as nitrous oxide is around 300 times more damaging to our environment than carbon dioxide. Methane is just as dangerous, having 25 times the environmental impact of carbon dioxide. And methane is released in large doses, with a single cow producing 500 litres of the gas every day.
Image sourced: Sharon Mollerustagsseasonalvegetarian awareness month 2013vegetarianism