In honor of Vegetarian Awareness Month, here are 31 reasons — one for each day of the month — to eat more plants and skip the meat.
Vegetarianism is Good for Your Health
1. Heart disease is the number one cause of premature death in the U.S., but vegetarians are 24% less likely to die of heart disease than meat-eaters. As many as four out of five Americans suffering from cardiovascular disease may reverse their symptoms when adopting a vegetarian diet.
2. Non-meat-eaters also have a lower average BMI than carnivores, according to the American Dietetic Association. In a study with more than 37,000 adults, vegans had the lowest BMIs and meat-eaters had the highest, with vegetarians landing somewhere in the middle.
3. Here’s an interesting one: when overweight people try to slim down using a vegan or vegetarian diet, they lose more weight than those who consume meat, even when the diet doesn’t emphasize calorie restriction.
4. According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PRCM), vegetarians and vegans have much lower blood pressure – even after just two weeks of being on a non-meat diet.
5. Following a vegetarian or vegan diet can also help prevent and manage diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association.
6. If you are somebody who suffers from asthma, a vegan or vegetarian diet could be the perfect thing for you. In 1985, a Swedish study found that after a year of following such a diet, people with asthma experienced fewer asthma attacks and needed less medication.
7. It gets better: going vegetarian or vegan may also help prevent cancer. A 10-year study of nearly 70,000 Seventh Day Adventists, whose religion encourages them to follow a well-balanced vegetarian diet, found that such a diet led to an a decreased risk for all cancer types.
Vegetarianism is Good for the Planet
9. Worldwide livestock farming produces 18 percent of the earth’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to a 2006 report from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), while the entire transportation sector produces only 13 percent. To quote Henning Steinfeld, Chief of FAO’s Livestock Information and Policy Branch and senior author of the report: “Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems. Urgent action is required to remedy the situation.”
10. Did you know that it takes over 1,700 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef, while about 50 gallons is enough to produce one pound of apples. That’s a huge waste of water.
11. The same idea holds true for grains. The Earth Policy Institute reports that it takes about seven pounds of grain to produce a one-pound gain in live weight, making grain-fed beef an extremely inefficient form of animal protein. Why not just eat those grain foods directly and make the food supply more efficient?
12. Huge swaths of tropical forest in Brazil are destroyed daily, and more than 60 percent of this deforested land ends up as cattle pasture. This isn’t just happening in Brazil; in the 1970s and early 1980s the American demand for beef was driving Central American countries to burn forests and convert the land into cattle pasture at an alarming rate.
13. Rajendra Pachauri, the former head of the U.N.’s Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has urged people everywhere to cut back on their consumption of meat in order to combat climate change.
Vegetarianism is Good for Your Body and Mind
14. Your fiber intake will increase, the more you eat veggies and legumes, and that will lead to improved digestion and less constipation. And who doesn’t want that?
15. Not just your digestion, but also your skin is likely to improve. All those fruits, veggies, and whole grains contain lots of antioxidants, and these can help prevent signs of aging like wrinkles and brown spots.
16. And you will feel happier. A study of the eating habits of 80,000 Brits by the University of Warwick and Dartmouth College found that people felt better about themselves when they increased their fruit and vegetable intake to seven portions a day.
17. Not only happier, but also livelier: eating more beans, spinach, green leafy vegetables, and other foods high in dietary nitrates can help you feel more energized.
18. You might not even realize you’re missing meat! Chef Mama T’s vegan chili won a Honolulu omnivore chili cook-off against two meat-based chilis. It’s true: there are some awesome veggie recipes out there.
19. Non-processed, vegetarian food travels quickly through the gastro intestinal tract, which means there’s not much time for it to spoil or incite disease within the body.
20. A report from the John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future found that as much as 80 percent of the antibiotics sold in the U.S. are fed to animals, such as cows, pigs and chickens, to prevent disease. That’s a huge problem, as humans end up eating those animals; a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found that 23,000 people die from antibiotic-resistant infections each year; the more a particular germ is exposed to such drugs, the more it can develop resistance.
21. The same is true of agricultural chemicals. Animal foods are likely to contain far higher concentrations of agricultural chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides, than are plant foods.
22. It’s also likely that you will cut back on protein. On average, Americans consume about twice as much protein as they need, and the main sources of this protein tend to be animal products.
Vegetarianism is Good for Animals
23. In his beautiful book, “Beyond Words,” Carl Safina presents a profound, scientifically based portrait of how animals think and feel, and he reveals how all living things are connected. It makes sense: human animal or non-human animal, we are all the same in fundamental ways, like seeking pleasure and avoiding suffering.
24. Other brain scientists agree that most animals are conscious and aware just as humans are, and believe that virtually all animals have sentience, the ability to feel, perceive, or experience subjectively.
25. In case you’ve been fooled, you should know that “free-range,” “humanely raised,” and “all-natural” are terms that almost always mean nothing. The food industry regulates itself, in order to make as much money as possible.
26. The cruelty carried out toward animals on today’s factory farms would be illegal if it were inflicted on dogs or cats. Going vegetarian, and adopting a vegetarian lifestyle, can lead us all towards a kinder, gentler society, in which we protect all animals.
27. Humans are natural herbivores. Our flat teeth work perfectly to grind grains and vegetables, rather than tearing apart animal flesh.
28. I probably don’t need to tell you this, but most baby calves are ripped from their mothers at birth, pushed into crowded cages with other terrified babies, kept in darkness for four months and finally killed. How can anyone condone such horrific treatment?
29. That’s how it goes for baby calves, but the horrific suffering of animals in today’s agribusiness system is widespread, affecting cattle, pigs, and chicken, to mention just a few.
30. Choosing to go pescatarian isn’t enough. While harvesting shrimp, for example, there is a large amount of bycatch: for every one pound of shrimp caught, there may be an additional 10 to 15 pounds of bycatch.
31. Finally, from Robert Grillo, founder of Free From Harm: “Each time we sit down to eat, we choose to spare a life or take a life, to honor someone’s right to live and live freely or to be violated against their will, for no good reason, not because we must, but simply because we can.”
Happy Vegetarian Awareness Month!