Friday, June 26, 2009

To be or not to be a vegetarian?

Well, for a while now I had been planning on having a few posts where I can talk about vegetarianism, why I am a vegetarian, and what the benefits are. However, when I saw Angela's post today on Oh She Glows about how our diet can increase or decrease our likelihood of developing cancer over the period of our lifespan, I thought this was an appropriate time to write about it.

Please note that I do NOT eat: beef, chicken, pork, duck, rabbit, lamb, venison, or deer.

But, I DO eat fish. So, although it seems like all non-vegetarians refer to me as a vegetarian (especially my Greek in-laws who are still coming to terms with this whole "no eating lamb" thing, haha), some vegetarians might not consider me to be "one of them" because I eat fish.

I eat fish for a few reasons. One, I do enjoy it! Most of all I love the taste of seafood, and I would have a hard time giving it up, although I have considered it (and tried to) on many occasions. Second of all, fish is a great source of protein. Yes it is very possible to get enough protein on a strictly vegan or vegetarian diet, but it's tough, and I guess I'm just not tough enough (at least not at this junction in my life - maybe I will be one day!) Third, I truly admire those of you who have more "strict" diets (like you, Gena!), because I often feel as if I am high-maintenance when I am around other people. It is often a challenge eating at other people's houses and especially eating at restaurants, as a vegetarian who does eat fish. I know there are lots of great veggie restaurants out there, but let's face it, our friends and family often don't want to ONLY frequent those healthy-eating joints! Eating fish makes me a little bit less of a pain in the ass during these occasions. Lastly, while meat and meat products have been proven to contribute to numerous health problems, many physicians actually RECOMMEND that we eat fish frequently (certain types of fish, in particular) to reduce our chance of getting coronary heart disease, prostate cancer, and depression, to name just a few benefits.

So: back to vegetarianism (if you call me a vegetarian - I think technically I'm called a pescaterian? Does anyone know?)

The very first reason that I became a vegetarian, back in 1995, was due to the fact that I stumbled upon a fascinating book one day at Barnes & Noble. Unfortunately, for the life of me I cannot remember the name of the book. However, while it touched on how vegetarianism benefits animals (we all know that eating animals is not exactly kind to those animals that are getting slaughtered), the point that most resonated with me was this:

*** If WE ALL became vegetarians, there WOULD BE NO WORLD HUNGER ***

Confused? That's ok - it's a hard concept to wrap your head around - sadly, I think most of us see world hunger as something that just "is" and that will always "be". However, this is simply not the case.

It takes approximately 16 pounds of grain to produce just ONE pound of animal flesh that can be consumed by humans. According to the USDA and the United Nations, using one acre of land produces just 20 pounds of animal flesh. Guess how many pounds of soybeans that same acre could grow? = 356 pounds!!!!

So, my friends, when you think of it that way and break it down mathematically (which some nice scientists and mathematicians have done for us so we don't have to!), you can see how world vegetarianism truly would eradicate world hunger. To be perfectly honest, even if people ate 10% less meat than they already do, that would translate to MILLIONS more people being fed.

Now, how can you argue with those kind of statistics?!?! Do you still want to tell me that "well, it just tastes good", and "people were meant to eat meat cuz the caveman did"?

Not to mention the environmental side of this: did you know that because of how much water it takes to produce a pound of meat, you will save more water by not eating one pound of beef than by not showering for an entire year???

On to the good stuff: HEALTH!

Although I became a vegetarian for the humanitarian reasons that I listed above, the main reason that I CONTINUE to be a vegetarian - and why I know that I will be forever - is for health reasons.

I could write a book about all of the health benefits of a vegetarian diet - except I wouldn't make much money since there are already 1000s of them out there :) - which shows you that this, thankfully, is becoming less of a "weird hippie thing" and more of a mainstream movement for those who are health-conscious.

Basically, I will just list some of the many merits of a veggie diet. Statistically, vegetarians have lower rates of:

* hypertension
* blood cholesterol levels
* Type 2 diabetes
* colon cancer
* prostate cancer
* breast cancer
* overall we have 40% LOWER RATES OF CANCER than meat-eaters

* we also have lowered risk of Alzheimer's, asthma, and osteoporosis
* we have stronger immune systems
* overall we live 6-8 years longer than meat-eaters (vegans live even longer than this!)
* PS, it's also usually cheaper to be a vegetarian, if you do it right!

I could go on forever about this, but I will get off my soap box for the day :) I wish I still had my copy of The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell, but I loaned it out a while back. It is an EXCELLENT resource that focuses solely on the health benefits of a vegetarian/vegan diet. He has spent 40 years in nutrition resource and the book is based on an enormous, comprehensive study of thousands of subjects over 65 countries. In a nutshell, he found that many people were even able to REVERSE terrible diseases (such as cancer and heart disease) by removing meat products out of their diet. Please read this book - or at least check it out from the library and skim it since it's a long one :)

Another oldie but goodie is The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Save Your Life and Your World, by John Robbins. John was the heir to the multi-million dollar Baskin Robbins empire, and walked away from it all once he realized the many dangers of eating meat, and how your life can be extended - and improved - by converting to a plant-based diet. I own this one, so let me know if you have any questions about it!

I would be happy to talk more about this topic another time if anyone is interested as I am very passionate about it! I realize that vegetarianism is not for everyone, and I really am not out there to make or force anyone to be a vegetarian that doesn't want to be. But I do believe that some people WOULD make the switch if they had the facts, so I am just hear to put the facts out here for you.

So, I'd love to hear from my readers - are you a vegetarian? Carnivore? Flexitarian? Vegan? Have you considered trying out vegetarianism? Is anything holding you back?


  1. amazing post! I love your reasons behind choosing how you eat. I would LOVE to read that book you are referring to if you the name pops into your head- sounds great! I enjoy reading different ideas/approaches/arguments.

    I go through phases where I eat meat a couple of a times a week or not at all. I generally stick to chicken. I don't care too much for red meat and unfortunately I can't consume fish because my man is incredibly allergic- even to the scent. However, I LOVE seafood. I'll be able to pick up eating it again when I leave for school! One (small) bonus to being separated.

    Have a fantastic weekend!

  2. Such a good post and so glad to hear you have reasons for eatin the way you do! I think tech you are pescitarian but labels mean nothing :)

  3. I eat meat only when I crave it, usually dictated by the monthly friend. And it lasts 1-2 days. And then I don't crave it for a few weeks. Very strange.

    The books are very interesting and appreciate you recommending them. I've not heard about the China Study but I am familiar with the Robbins book.

    How's that humidity in Chicago? I use to visit for Taste and July 4th and recall being drenched head to toe in sweat just walking to and fro the city.

  4. Very great post! So much good information. I have toyed with the idea of becomming vegetarian but I haven't yet. I don't eat much red meat and stick to generally chicken & fish. I'll be getting back to your email this weekend!!

  5. I try to stay away from meat, mostly for environmental and health reasons, but every once in awhile a burger tempts me :-) I took an environmental science class in college and we learned that eating vegetarian for one year would save more water than if you didn't shower for a whole year. Crazy!

  6. Hi,
    I have been really considering going veggie (mainly for my cholesterol) and just found your site today. All looks great! However, I think I would have to disagree with the "no world hunger part" We lived in Northern Uganda on the border of Sudan.. While in theory that may be true... the food wouldn't be evenly distributed and there would still be much hunger and starvation... Just my thoughts!

    Great blog though! Good job.

  7. very interesting..You might be right, but in my culture, meat has always been part of my diet. It is so hard to give up something that I am use to :)

  8. Amen sista :) I am a vegetarian and I became one because of the animals, also because I didn't enjoy the process of eating meat..the chew and the feel of it. Weird, I know. But I read a book that says for every vegetarian out there, 7 rabbits are saved, 100 or so chickens..blah blah blah. Feels nice to know that I am making some sort of a difference

    And I have saved a ton of money too! My grocery costs are down like $25!!