Why Not? It’s delicious, healthy, good for the environment, and no animal is killed in vain.
But if you need a thorough explanation, here’s an article about it:
You’ll ward off disease. Vegetarian diets are more healthful than the average American diet, particularly in preventing, treating or reversing heart disease and reducing the risk of cancer. A low-fat vegetarian diet is the single most effective way to stop the progression of coronary artery disease or prevent it entirely. Cardiovascular disease kills 1 million Americans annually and is the leading cause of death in the United States. But the mortality rate for cardiovascular disease is lower in vegetarians than in nonvegetarians, says Joel Fuhrman, MD, author of Eat to Live: The Revolutionary Formula for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss. A vegetarian diet is inherently healthful because vegetarians consume no animal fat and less cholesterol and instead consume more fiber and more antioxidant-rich produce—another great reason to listen to Mom and eat your veggies!
You’ll keep your weight down. The standard American diet—high in saturated fats and processed foods and low in plant-based foods and complex carbohydrates—is making us fat and killing us slowly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and a division of the CDC, the National Center for Health Statistics, 64 percent of adults and 15 percent of children aged 6 to 19 are overweight and are at risk of weight-related ailments including heart disease, stroke and diabetes. A study conducted from 1986 to 1992 by Dean Ornish, MD, president and director of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California, found that overweight people who followed a low-fat, vegetarian diet lost an average of 24 pounds in the first year and kept off that weight 5 years later. They lost the weight without counting calories or carbs and without measuring portions or feeling hungry.
You’ll live longer. If you switch from the standard American diet to a vegetarian diet, you can add about 13 healthy years to your life, says Michael F. Roizen, MD, author of The RealAge Diet: Make Yourself Younger with What You Eat. “People who consume saturated, four-legged fat have a shorter life span and more disability at the end of their lives. Animal products clog your arteries, zap your energy and slow down your immune system. Meat eaters also experience accelerated cognitive and sexual dysfunction at a younger age.”
Want more proof of longevity? Residents of Okinawa, Japan, have the longest life expectancy of any Japanese and likely the longest life expectancy of anyone in the world, according to a 30-year study of more than 600 Okinawan centenarians. Their secret: a low-calorie diet of unrefined complex carbohydrates, fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, and soy.
You’ll build strong bones. When there isn’t enough calcium in the bloodstream, our bodies will leach it from existing bone. The metabolic result is that our skeletons will become porous and lose strength over time. Most health care practitioners recommend that we increase our intake of calcium the way nature intended— through foods. Foods also supply other nutrients such as phosphorus, magnesium and vitamin D that are necessary for the body to absorb and use calcium.
People who are mildly lactose-intolerant can often enjoy small amounts of dairy products such as yogurt, cheese and lactose-free milk. But if you avoid dairy altogether, you can still get a healthful dose of calcium from dry beans, tofu, soymilk and dark green vegetables such as broccoli, kale, collards and turnip greens.
You’ll reduce your risk of food-borne illnesses. The CDC reports that food-borne illnesses of all kinds account for 76 million illnesses a year, resulting in 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths in the United States. According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), foods rich in protein such as meat, poultry, fish and seafood are frequently involved in food-borne illness outbreaks.
You’ll ease the symptoms of menopause. Many foods contain nutrients beneficial to perimenopausal and menopausal women. Certain foods are rich in phytoestrogens, the plant-based chemical compounds that mimic the behavior of estrogen. Since phytoestrogens can increase and decrease estrogen and progesterone levels, maintaining a balance of them in your diet helps ensure a more comfortable passage through menopause. Soy is by far the most abundant natural source of phytoestrogens, but these compounds also can be found in hundreds
of other foods such as apples, beets, cherries, dates, garlic, olives, plums, raspberries, squash and yams. Because menopause is also associated with weight gain and a slowed metabolism, a low-fat, high-fiber vegetarian diet can help ward off extra pounds.
You’ll have more energy. Good nutrition generates more usable energy—energy to keep pace with the kids, tackle that home improvement project or have better sex more often, Michael F. Roizen, MD, says in The RealAge Diet. Too much fat in your bloodstream means that arteries won’t open properly and that your muscles won’t get enough oxygen. The result? You feel zapped. Balanced vegetarian diets are naturally free of cholesterol-laden, artery-clogging animal products that physically slow us down and keep us hitting the snooze button morning after morning. And because whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables are so high in complex carbohydrates, they supply the body with plenty of energizing fuel.
You’ll be more “regular.” Eating a lot of vegetables necessarily means consuming more fiber, which pushes waste out of the body. Meat contains no fiber. People who eat lower on the food chain tend to have fewer instances of constipation, hemorrhoids and diverticulitis.
You’ll help reduce pollution. Some people become vegetarians after realizing the devastation that the meat industry is having on the environment. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), chemical and animal waste runoff from factory farms is responsible for more than 173,000 miles of polluted rivers and streams. Runoff from farmlands is one of the greatest threats to water quality today. Agricultural activities that cause pollution include confined animal facilities, plowing, pesticide spraying, irrigation, fertilizing and harvesting.
You’ll avoid toxic chemicals. The EPA estimates that nearly 95 percent of the pesticide residue in the typical American diet comes from meat, fish and dairy products. Fish, in particular, contain carcinogens (PCBs, DDT) and heavy metals (mercury, arsenic, lead, cadmium) that can’t be removed through cooking or freezing. Meat and dairy products can also be laced with steroids and hormones, so be sure to read the labels on the dairy products you purchase.
You’ll help reduce famine. About 70 percent of all grain produced in the United States is fed to animals raised for slaughter. The 7 billion livestock animals in the United States consume five times as much grain as is consumed directly by the American population. “If all the grain currently fed to livestock were consumed directly by people, the number of people who could be fed would be nearly 800 million,” says David Pimentel, professor of ecology at Cornell University. If the grain were exported, it would boost the US trade balance by $80 billion a year.
You’ll spare animals. Many vegetarians give up meat because of their concern for animals. Ten billion animals are slaughtered for human consumption each year. And, unlike the farms of yesteryear where animals roamed freely, today most animals are factory farmed—crammed into cages where they can barely move and fed a diet tainted with pesticides and antibiotics. These animals spend their entire lives in crates or stalls so small that they can’t even turn around. Farmed animals are not protected from cruelty under the law—in fact, the majority of state anticruelty laws specifically exempt farm animals from basic humane protection.
You’ll save money. Meat accounts for 10 percent of Americans’ food spending. Eating vegetables, grains and fruits in place of the 200 pounds of beef, chicken and fish each nonvegetarian eats annually would cut individual food bills by an average of $4,000 a year.
Your dinner plate will be full of color. Disease-fighting phytochemicals give fruits and vegetables their rich, varied hues. They come in two main classes: carotenoids and anthocyanins. All rich yellow and orange fruits and vegetables—carrots, oranges, sweet potatoes, mangoes, pumpkins, corn—owe their color to carotenoids. Leafy green vegetables also are rich in carotenoids but get their green color from chlorophyll. Red, blue and purple fruits and vegetables—plums, cherries, red bell peppers—contain anthocyanins. Cooking by color is a good way to ensure you’re eating a variety of naturally occurring substances that boost immunity and prevent a range of illnesses.
It’s a breeze. It’s almost effortless these days to find great-tasting and good-for-you vegetarian foods, whether you’re strolling the aisles of your local supermarket or walking down the street at lunchtime. If you need inspiration in the kitchen, look no further than the Internet, your favorite bookseller or your local vegetarian society’s newsletter for culinary tips and great recipes. And if you’re eating out, almost any ethnic restaurant will offer vegetarian selections. In a hurry? Most fast food and fast casual restaurants now include healthful and inventive salads, sandwiches and entrées on their menus. So rather than asking yourself why go vegetarian, the real question is: Why haven’t you gone vegetarian?
From: the article, Why Go Veg?
Question #1: Where do you get your protein?
If an animal could be freed from the factory farm every time a vegan is asked this question, I would have no need to write this. You’ve got to hand it to meat and dairy industry advertisers; they have a product to sell and that product is high in protein. They have accomplished one of the greatest deceptions of the American public, scaring us into believing that you must have animal’s protein (and lots of it) to survive, build muscle, have healthy babies and so on. It is simply not true. Plant protein is not inferior or even scarce. Plant protein is abundant and if you’re eating a healthy, balanced vegan diet, you’re getting it.
However, if you’re on the vegan version of the ever popular and all-American pizza and beer diet, then there may be reason for concern about lack of protein- and any number of other nutrients for that matter. But if you’re getting enough healthy calories, that include legumes, whole grains, and veggies, you’re getting enough protein. You can click here to learn more about protein and the vegan diet.
Question #2: What’s the difference between killing plants and killing animals? Where do you draw the line?
Would you prefer to mow a lawn or hit a dog with a baseball bat? We know inherently through observation of behavior that animals have the capacity to suffer and feel pain. It is the same way we know a very young child feels pain. Pain is a lower brain stem function that all animals, including fish, equally possess. According to our scientific knowledge, it takes a central nervous system to feel pain. A cow, chicken, or fish can suffer just as much as a dog. Unlike plants, animals scream when in pain and struggle to get away from oppression. A child knows to pet a rabbit and eat a carrot.
Some will argue that plants do feel pain. It has not been scientifically proven, but even if this were the case, a vegan diet would still cause the least suffering. If you eat animal products, you are actually killing more plants as the animals ate plants before slaughter. This wasted grain, which could be going directly to humans, is another excellent reason for veganism.
Question #3: Isn’t it natural to eat animals?
If it’s so natural, I invite you to hunt your prey as other “natural carnivores” do. Use your senses, sniff out your prey, hunt with the chase, plunge your teeth into the jugular and eat the raw, bloody flesh.
Or you can go in the garden, pick a strawberry and eat its raw, juicy flesh. Which would you choose? Do you salivate and think about dinner when you see road kill? We are not carnivores. We can survive and as we are learning, thrive on an all plant diet.
We are evolving. We now live in houses, use computers, freeze our food; would any of this be considered “natural?” The more we learn about the abundant benefits of not eating animal products, the less “natural” they will seem.
Question # 4: What DO you eat?
Everything else! There is a wide variety of vegan and vegetarian food out there. Shopping at natural food stores can open you up to a whole new world of delicious plant foods. Some healthy options are whole grains like rice, quinoa, millet and amaranth. There is also pasta, couscous, polenta, breads, tempeh, setain, a plethora of beans and of course, tofu as well as the abundant variety of veggies and fruits. Many people feel their diet has much more variety after they go vegan.
Question #5: Isn’t vegan food too expensive?
Beans, rice, bread, and pasta are some of the least expensive foods in the supermarket. Where it starts to get pricy is with the faux meats and cheeses that are highly processed and not all that good for you (although it’s healthier than meat!). They should be eaten sparingly anyway.
But maybe you can look at it this way. How about spending a few more dollars on your food bill now and save hundreds of thousands of dollars on triple by-pass surgery or chemo in the future? Not to mention the suffering, misery and anguish of having a chronic degenerative disease. You can reduce your chances of this terrible fate significantly, all while protecting animals and helping save the planet. I would say that is worth a few extra bucks.
Question #6: I’m very athletic and need energy/protein. Aren’t vegans scrawny and weak?
The list of incredible vegetarian and vegan athletes who have accomplished amazing feats with their bodies is growing rapidly. You can build muscle on any protein, animal or plant. There are even world champion ultra marathoners and vegan bodybuilders!
There is no nutrient in animal products that can’t be found in a superior plant source. Superior, because plant foods are high in fiber, antioxidants and phytochemicals, and unlike animal products, contain no cholesterol or high saturated fat. Generally, when people are “feeling low energy” and think they need protein, they just need calories. Even the American Dietetic Association proves that there is no need for meat to build muscle.
Question #7: If you were stranded on a deserted island with only animals to eat, would you?
Hmm, how likely is this scenario?
The answer to this question is that we are not on a deserted island; this is not Survivor. Quite the contrary, we are in a first world smorgasbord of plant foods. Thank goodness! I sure would have gotten sick of seaweed!
Question #8: Isn’t it too hard to remain vegan when you travel?
Whether you are traveling in the U.S. or internationally, you can always find vegan food. You might have to dig a little deeper to find healthy options, but if you are persistent, staying vegan while traveling can be rewarding.
In the U.S., almost every major city has a health food store and a Chinese restaurant featuring at least one veggie and rice dish. Most restaurants will create something for you if there is nothing vegan on the menu. One time, I reluctantly joined my family at a steakhouse and had an excellent non-menu meal. The waiter gladly brought me a green salad, baked potato with margarine, and a mix of roasted veggies. Quite healthy and cruelty-free compared to what the rest of the table indulged in.
If the server seems reluctant, and I am unsure if they will be careful and honor my request, I will sometimes say it is for health reasons, like I’m allergic and could have a reaction. This often gets his or her attention.
If you are planning a trip, do a bit of research before you go. There are excellent websites that offer information on natural food stores and veg-friendly restaurants in an area. Some cities might surprise you and have excellent options. Vegan treasures are hidden everywhere. Isn’t that one of the joys of travel- finding unknown pleasures? We can do all this and still remain free of animal suffering.
Question #9: Indigenous people eat meat. Would you tell an Inuit to go vegetarian?
No, I would not. Their climate, location and circumstances force them to eat meat to survive. But we are not in the Arctic. We have an abundance of plant foods overflowing in our farmers markets and grocery shelves.
Actually, our planet’s survival hinges on us, the first world, eating a more plant-based diet. Our livestock production spews greenhouse gases, destroys rainforests, causes severe topsoil erosion, and wastes vast amounts of water, polluting what’s left. The entire planet’s survival depends on how much we consume and destroy. A shift to a plant-based diet in the first world could vastly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reforest more than 600,000 acres of land in the U.S. alone and save the Inuit people.
Question #10: Aren’t your shoes leather?
Vegans are all striving to make personal choices that will improve our world. Striving is the key word here. Finding non-leather, eco-friendly shoes can be a full time job. Some vegans do it and others don’t. Perhaps some people choose to put their energy into avoiding animal products in their food, in their personal care products, and in their entertainment choices, yet they still wear their old shoes that they don’t want to throw out. We have to pick our battles.
Ultimately, what the person is truly asking is “aren’t you a hypocrite?” Even the purest of vegans unknowingly use a small amount of animal products. Some beer and wine use fish or eggs for clarification. White refined sugar uses the ground up bones from the slaughterhouse in the refinement process. There is gelatin in tires and film. Some vegans avoid these products and some don’t. We do what we can, and avoiding meat, dairy and eggs is a noble endeavor, no matter what degree you take it to or what you wear on your feet.
We are all hypocrites to some degree. But if we are not setting our goals higher than we can actually achieve, then we become complacent. I would argue for hypocrisy over complacency any day.
Hope Bohanec has been active in animal protection and environmental activism for over 20 years. She is the Grassroots Campaigns Director for the international animal protection organization, In Defense of Animals. Hope was the Sonoma County Coordinator for Proposition 2 and soon after that victory, founded Compassionate Living Outreach. Hope offers an influential power point presentation called Eco-Eating: A Cool Diet for a Hot Planet that addresses the environmental impact of animal agriculture through peer reviewed scientific research. She is a nationally recognized leader and speaker in the animal protection movement, and a well known presenter throughout the Bay Area and across the U.S.