The Pros and Cons of Vegetarianism by Emi Yasuda
You’re standing in line at your favorite burger joint. You order a cheeseburger, and one for your friend too. Instead of saying “thanks,” she says,
“I’ll have the veggie patty.”
“What’s up with that?” you wonder. Is there something wrong with it? Is she on a diet? No, she informs you, she’s a vegetarian.
Your friend is not alone. Vegetarianism is on the rise. In fact, the amount of vegetarians in high school and college has tripled in the last 10 years. Some predict that the number of followers of this diet will increase 50% by 2015! Currently, 3% of all American adults are vegetarians. Is this just a passing fad, or are vegetarians here to stay?
There are many religious, health-based, and moral reasons why people choose to become vegetarians. Here are some facts that can help you decide whether or not you would be willing to make the switch.
First, there are many health benefits that come along with being a vegetarian. In fact, it is proven that vegetarians are at a lower risk for many diseases, including heart disease. This fatal illness is the number one killer in women, responsible for one out of every three female deaths. With a vegetarian diet, your intake of saturated fats and bad cholesterol (LDL- low-density lipoprotein) is reduced. A diet too high in these components can result in atherosclerosis (artery-hardening) or other conditions adversely affecting blood vessels. Thus, vegetarianism can help maintain a healthy cardiovascular system. It also decreases your risk for diabetes and obesity due to the low-fat and high fiber intake that often accompanies this eating choice. Not only does vegetarianism combat these diseases, it also helps reduce your risk of cancers such as breast and colon cancer. While these benefits could stem from the fact that vegetarians tend to be more conscientious about what they eat, the positive effects of a higher intake of fruits and vegetables cannot be refuted.
If the health benefits are not enough to sway you, try being a vegetarian just for a day. Studies have found that vegetarianism can transform you in many different ways. A study published in the British Journal of Healthy Psychology asked 300 teenagers to keep a food diary for three weeks. The results showed that on most days, teens who ate more fruits and vegetables not only had more energy overall, but also were generally happier.
Furthermore, there are many moral and social motivations behind choosing to convert to vegetarianism. By becoming a vegetarian, you reduce your carbon footprint. The raising of livestock causes the emission of many greenhouse gases. These contribute to the thinning of the ozone layer, which protects us from harmful UV rays.
In addition, meat packaging also damages ecosystems and uses up a lot of water and electricity. In fact, the company PB&J has found that by eating 3 vegetarian lunches a month, you’ll save more water than you would by switching to a low-flow showerhead!
Though there are many positives to becoming a vegetarian, there are also some negatives. If you do not replace the omitted foods in your diet with other nutrient sources, you could suffer from nutrient deficiency. New vegetarians often have to plan out their meals in order ensure a balanced diet. However, a common misconception about vegetarian diets is that plant protein sources are lacking in amino acids. While it is certainly true that not all plants possess all essential amino acids, by eating plants from different families, such as grains and legumes, you can ensure a sufficiently balanced amino acid intake. Omega-3 fatty acid deficiency is also common among vegetarians. These macromolecules are found in fish and eggs and have many health benefits. Luckily, they can also be found in a variety of nuts, seeds, and oils, such as flax and walnut. Other nutrient deficiencies that can arise due to vegetarianism include Vitamin D, Calcium, and Vitamin B12. However, almost all these issues can be solved by eating a wide variety of foods.
So, after reading about the pros and cons of a vegetarian diet, would you be willing to change your diet, even for a day?