By Anja Trenkwalder
Elm Staff Writer
About two percent of Americans, about five million people, run on vegetarian diets. Changing your diet can be a big step which require careful consideration. There are many factors that will play a part when making an informed decision.
Here are some pros and cons you should be aware of when considering to go veggie:
Pro: Ethical Implications. Most vegetarians choose to remove meat from their plates for ethical reasons. Such as the cruelty that modern factory farming subjects animals to or the idea of killing for food in general. There is a multitude of moral questions when it comes to eating meat. If you love animals and support their fair and cruelty-free treatment, going veggie is a great step to take.
Con: Ignorance is Bliss. The reality of the meat and dairy industry is rather bleak. People tend to prefer ignorant bliss to exploring the reality animals face in factory farms every single day of their lives. This ignorance is a choice, and a legitimate choice at that, because the real face of the meat industry is not something everyone can handle. Being aware of what goes on in factory farms is extremely difficult to stomach. Learn the facts about the modern meat industry at meat.org at your own risk.
Pro: Health Reasons. If you know how to do it, a vegetarian diet can greatly benefit your health. The Harvard Medical School claims that vegetarians tend to show fewer cases of cardiac diseases, are less likely to have clogged arteries, and have a reduced risk of suffering strokes and heart-attacks.
Con: Difficult Transition. For many people, meat is a staple item in their diets. Removing it cold turkey is definitely not an easy thing to do, and many who attempt to jump into a vegetarian diet too fast will relapse. Some find that they miss meat too much or that their cooking-skills are simply too limited to make veggie dishes exciting.
Pro: Easier Weight-Management. Studies conducted by the Harvard Medical School found that the body weight of vegetarians is, on average, three to 20 percent lower than that of meat eaters, depending on demographics. Indeed, as vegetarian recipes shift the focus from greasy meat items to light and vitamin-packed veggies, meatless dishes are often significantly lower in calories, cholesterol, saturated and trans fats, and instead deliver plenty of fiber, plant-based protein (which is known to be absorbed by the human body more efficiently than meat-based protein), and essential micronutrients.
Con: Difficult in Social Settings. You are at dinner with the family and grandma made her famous meatloaf. Situations like these can be quite challenging for vegetarians, both in terms of staying strong and not wanting to offend your host. The key is to prevent such challenges from happening by informing your host in advance. Let him or her know that you don’t eat meat, offer to contribute your own vegetarian dish to the meal, or just stick with vegetarian sides. Your host will certainly be understanding and may perhaps offer to cook a meatless meal for everyone.
Another challenge is eating out. Not all restaurants offer vegetarian meals, and if they do, the options may be quite limited. A trick is to check out online menus in advance, pick a restaurant that you know has suitable meatless choices, be flexible, or improvise. Most restaurants, even if they don’t have vegetarian dishes on the menu, are willing to accommodate. If you simply ask politely to substitute the meat for an extra serving of veggies, you should be good to go.
Pro: Protect the Environment. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, cattle and dairy farms produce more greenhouse gasses than all of the cars currently on the road. “Eating a plant-based meal for lunch instead of a burger saves 2.5 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, 133 gallons of water, and 24 square feet of land.” By ditching meat, you not only help save the lives of animals, but you also help save the planet.
Ultimately, it is up to you to weigh the pros and cons and arrive at an informed decision that will work for you. Removing meat from you diet is by no means an easy step, but if you allow yourself time to transition and do it for the right reasons, you ultimately get to reap all of the boundless benefits.
Remember, there is no right or wrong here. The only right, in this case, is whatever works for you.