It's widely thought by many that meat is needed as part of a healthy and balanced diet. This may or may not be the case, however what needs to be looked at here is how true this is in modern life - where we generally eat too much in the form of processed food which has often been added to with salt and sugar and a whole host of other additives.
Most people nowadays eat too many refined sugars which can be found in white bread and pasta for example. Add to this with a diet of red meats such as lamb and beef along with too many carbohydrates - again found in bread and pasta and this can lead to an excess of fat within the body.
The age old argument that vegetarians don't get enough protein from their diet has been contested too. For a long time, it was widely believed that vegetarians weren't geting enough protein from simply eating fruits and vegetables but it's now been acknowleged by doctors and nutritionists that vegetarians receive more than their daily intake of protein just from consuming fruits and vegetables.
Why a vegetarian diet?
There are lots of reasons why an individual might choose a vegetarian diet. To summarise, here are just a few:
Eating animals is cruel/morally wrong.
This is the most common argument for going vegetarian. Should animals be raised simply to be killed for food? Proponents of this argue that animals can feel pain, emotion and suffering like humans do and this should be accounted for. Raising animals in this way is believed to be a violation of their rights and if you believe animals have rights, then raising and killing animals for food is morally wrong.
Raising animals as food for humans is causing environmental damage.
The impact of raising livestock to be slaughtered is causing unforeseen damage to the environment in the form of vast amounts of land, fuel and water. This is because the resources needed to feed the animals such as grazing feed requires a lot of land, which often results in deforestation.
This can have a knock on effect and this expansion is believed to have increased the rate of species extinction. Grazing is believed to occupy 26% of the Earth's surface and those who argue against it, explain that this land could be better used for growing crops to feed humans with and potentially solve world hunger.
Meat production is overheating the planet.
The demand for meat has resulted in overproduction and we now eat around 230m tonnes of animals each year. This has increased the number of emissions such as methane into the atmosphere. This isn't only released from the cows during belching, farting but also from the manures that they produce, oil burned taking caracasses to market and electricity required to keep the meat cool. It can also be found in the gas used to cook it, energy needed to plough and harvest the fields which grow crops for animals to eat.
Choosing a vegetarian diet is a better choice for your health.
There are numerous reports which link red meat and particularly processed meat to an increased risk of cancer. According to studies, eating 100 to 120g of red or processed meat a day can increase the risk of developing cancer by 20-30%. So it makes sense to reduce the amount of meat in your diet where possible.
Choosing a vegetarian diet can be better for your health in this consideration, as you are not consuming meat which can be hard to digest in the body as well as raise blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Meat can also be dense in calories due to its high level of saturated fat content.
Worries about the risk of a low iron count or not receiving enough protein are often unfounded as fruits and vegetables contain all the minerals and vegetables required by the body and this includes protein and iron. Vegetarian sources of protein and iron include soy beans, spinach, tofu and quinoa to name but a few.
There are a whole number of reasons for choosing to go vegetarian - for your health, for the environment or for simple peace of mind. Whatever the reason, keeping informed of your lifestyle choice and being aware of all options available to you will not only help yourself, but also help to educate others and raise awareness about the many benefits of living the vegetarian lifestyle.