Photo (cc) by Martin Cathrae
This article was written by Allan Kunigis for Adaptu.com.
You probably know that vegetarianism is good for you. You may have also thought of it as difficult or dull. In fact, it can be easy and great fun.
Vegetarianism may not be for everyone. But if you’re reading this, you’re probably curious and open to learning more. Let’s start by dispelling a few myths…
Myth: Vegetarian food doesn’t provide enough protein.
Fact: The average North American consumes far more protein than needed. While protein from different sources, such as grains and beans, tofu and nuts, can be combined to make all 20 amino acids that we need, our bodies make all but eight of these amino acids, known as “essential.” Your body can use the mixture of essential amino acids from food eaten throughout the day to make other important proteins, and can hold onto proteins from one meal and mix them with proteins from another.
Myth: Vegetarianism is all or nothing.
Fact: Health benefits can be seen in a variety of diets. So many forms that it’s hard to list them all…
- Vegan – no animal products at all.
- Lacto-ovo vegetarian – no animal products except eggs and dairy
- Lacto vegetarian – no animal products except dairy
- Ovo vegetarian – no animal products except eggs
- Pesco vegetarian – no animal products except fish
- Flexitarian – eats small amounts of animal products occasionally
- Takes part in Meatless Mondays – regular meat eaters take a day off each week from eating meat
Myth: Vegetarian diets are boring and limiting.
Fact: Vegetarian meals can have much more variety than the traditional meat and potatoes. Have you tried Greek salad, black bean quesadillas, grilled vegetable burritos, leek or mushroom quiche, vegetable curry, eggplant parmesan, falafel, fajitas, vegetable lasagna, pesto pizza, seitan and vegetable stir fry, potato gnocchi, Spanakopita, tofu pad thai, sesame noodles, vegetable couscous, or quinoa salad? There’s no end to the options.
So now that we know the truth, what are some added benefits?
Good for your health
Some people are drawn to vegetarianism for moral or religious reasons, while others appreciate the many health benefits: Depending on your food choices, you may lower your cholesterol, lose weight, reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, or Type 2 diabetes, improve digestion of food, and reduce the risk of constipation.
Good for the earth
The meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of man-made greenhouse gas emissions, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. By choosing a more plant-based diet, we could collectively take a big bite out of that.
Good for your wallet
While it’s possible to spend a lot on some vegetarian foods – such as organic imported or off-season fruits and vegetables – much of the world’s poor people eat a mainly vegetarian diet based on staples such as rice, beans, and corn. A pound of dried beans and rice will cost much less than the cheapest cuts of beef, and a pound of tofu is generally less expensive than chicken breasts.
But the biggest savings could be long-term. By remaining healthy and avoiding chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, you could save on such procedures as a $60,000 bypass operation and substantially lower your life insurance premiums.
Vegetarianism can be easy. Here are a few tips…
- Find a reason. Trying a vegetarian diet as a lark might be interesting, but if you want to make it a long-lasting change, find a reason you believe in, such as “I can’t stomach the thought of eating animals,” or “I need to lower my risk of a heart attack.”
- Eliminate red meat. If you’re looking for gradual change, or you love chicken and fish, start simply by not eating red meat.
- Embrace Meatless Mondays. If you just want to explore non-meat recipes without committing to more, join the trend of going a day without meat to see what it’s like.
- Find good recipes. Look for a handful of vegetarian recipes that interest you. The possibilities are endless. Think of the variety and fun you could have.