Many years ago, a person who claimed to be a vegetarian would be looked upon as strange, and be the object of ridicule. Nowadays many influential and well-known persons embrace this lifestyle. But what does this entail? What really is a Vegetarian Lifestyle?
Will you be called a crazy, zealous, health nut?
It’s not surprising that vegetarianism was not so popular years ago. After all, many persons who claimed to be vegetarians in years gone by were really……..how can I say this…….weird. They might have had some inkling of the benefits of this lifestyle but they sometimes had some really far-fetched ideas and practices.
We know about the lifestyle of hippies and their lean towards the vegetarian lifestyle but over a hundred years before the first hippie communes, a man by the name of Amos Bronson decided to form a vegan community. He had some weird beliefs and seem to want to create another Garden of Eden. He named his community Fruitland. Everyone in Fruitland wore specially designed tunics and lived off the food grown in their community. They didn’t use any manure and did not know much about agriculture in general so their crops soon failed, they had nothing to eat and Fruitland became bankrupt.
Practices like this would cloud the overall acceptance of vegetarianism and give it a bad name. So when vegetarian spokesmen such as Sylvester Graham and John Harvey Kellogg taught about the nutritional superiority of a vegetarian diet, they were considered to be dietary fanatics. Only as nutritional science expanded from the mid-20th century onward did vegetarianism acquire general recognition as a healthful dietary alternative.
What is a Vegetarian Lifestyle?
Some people might refer to it as a vegetarian diet. It’s not really wrong to call it that, but the word diet has such negative connotations. When you think diet, you think of words such as deprive, starve, regimen, crash (diet), deficiency, fat, overweight, malnourished, thin, unbalanced.
We certainly don’t want any of those words to distort your understanding of a vegetarian lifestyle.
So what is a vegetarian lifestyle? Simply put, it is the decision to embrace a healthier way of living by eliminating all flesh foods from your diet and substituting predominantly plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. The diet may or may not include dairy products (such as milk, butter, cheese) and eggs.
Is it worth it?
Why on earth should you want to give up your chicken, steak, fish, lamb? Because the rewards are tremendous.
There are so many benefits that you can get from adopting a vegetarian lifestyle. Chief among those benefits are the health benefits.
Numerous studies which have been done point to the fact that a vegetarian or plant-based diet has numerous positive impacts on health. Check out some of these facts.
- Coronary Heart disease: Studies show that persons on a plant-based diet were, on average, 25% less likely to die of heart disease.
- Lower Cholesterol: This diet is low in saturated fats and cholesterol and contains more vitamins C and E, dietary fiber, folic acid, potassium, magnesium, and phytochemicals (plant chemicals), such as carotenoids and flavonoids. This results in lower total cholesterol and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.
- Lower Blood Pressure: Many hypertensive persons have been able to come off medication and maintain a normal blood pressure
- Aids in weight loss and lower body mass index (BMI), which are associated with longevity and a reduced risk for many chronic diseases.
- Type 2 diabetes. Research suggests that a predominantly plant-based diet can reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes. In studies of Seventh-day Adventists, results showed that vegetarians’ risk of developing diabetes was half that of non-vegetarians.
- Cancer. Hundreds of studies suggest that eating lots of fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of developing certain cancers, and there’s evidence that persons on a plant-based diet have a lower incidence of cancer than those who are not. Plant-based diet also slows down the progression of some cancers such as breast, colon and prostate.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. There are many, many other health conditions that are controlled or reversed by a vegetarian or plant-based diet.
Will your nutritional needs be met?
Ah. That question comes up so often.
Adopting a vegetarian lifestyle does not mean you are just going to remove all flesh foods from your diet and that’s it. Not at all. If this is what is done, then truly, your nutritional needs would not be met. Instead, what happens is that flesh food is removed and replaced by the healthy and nutritious legumes, nuts and seeds as well as a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.
Look at how nutrition packed a plant-based diet can be.
Legumes – Let’s look at a few of them
Very popular with vegetarians. High in protein and fiber. Lentil is also a good source of calcium, phosphorus, iron and B vitamins and is used in many recipes such as stews, soups, lentil loaf and lentil patties.
- Chickpeas (Garbanzo bean)
Chickpeas is famous for its role in hummus. This bean contains vitamin K, folate, phosphorus, zinc, copper, manganese, choline, and selenium. It is an excellent source of protein and fiber and contains exceptional levels of iron, vitamin B-6, and magnesium
- Black beans
This is another excellent source of protein, fiber, folate, copper, manganese, vitamin B1, magnesium, phosphorus and iron.
- Other Legumes
There are so many varieties of peas and beans to choose from. There are broad beans, pinto beans, navy beans, kidney beans, split peas, black eye peas, cow peas…….and they all come with different tastes. Many different flavours of soups and stews can be made from these legumes. These nutritional powerhouses are packed with protein, fiber, B vitamins, iron and potassium.
Leafy greens such as spinach, broccoli, kale and collards, are rich in iron. They are high in folic acid and vitamin A and even contain calcium. They are also a great source of cancer-fighting antioxidants.
Fruits provide you with lots of nutrients in the from of vitamins, minerals, antioxidant, phytochemicals and fiber which are essential for good health.
Whole grains such as brown rice, bulgar, quinoa, oats, whole wheat pasta, whole grain breads (such as 100% whole wheat bread), are high in fiber and an important source of B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and folate) and minerals (iron, magnesium and selenium).
These energy rich super foods are packed with healthy fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals.
Example flax, chia, sunflower, pumpkin, sesame……talk about a nutritional powerhouse. Seeds are a great source of protein and heart healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Also a great source of essential amino acids and minerals, including calcium, zinc, copper and magnesium.
You can see that there is absolutely no need to be worried about whether your nutritional needs will be met. As long as you ensure that you eat a variety of the various food types you should be fine.
Don’t be turned off by the bad examples
There are some persons who just cut out the meat out of their diet and are not careful to replace the nutrients lost, with plant based nutrients. These persons eventually become sick and feeble and become a poor example of how healthy, robust vegetarians should look.
What about the taste?
Some people may think that a plant based diet is boring and tasteless. Quite the contrary. There is a wide variety of menu choices for someone on a plant based diet. Check out these recipes for starters.
You don’t have to worry that you will never eat anything tasty.
I once heard someone say with great disdain, “I eat nothing vegetarian”. I had to respond. I couldn’t help myself. So I said “Really. Don’t you eat rice?”………Yes.
“Do you eat bread?” ……Yes.
“What about fruits and vegetables?” ………hmm.
“What about cashews. I love cashews, don’t you?” But by this time he was no longer interested in anything I had to say.
Adopting a vegetarian lifestyle does not mean all new and unusual foods. The fact is that you already eat most of the foods that are included in a vegetarian diet. The only thing you have removed is flesh foods. You will continue to enjoy your fruits, vegetables, nuts etc. that you are used to. Just include a wide range of plant-based foods and in addition to reaping the benefits of all the essential vitamins and nutrients, you will be able to explore new flavours, textures and foods that you would have otherwise overlooked in a meat-based diet.
We mentioned health benefits earlier but there are also environmental benefits to adopting a vegetarian lifestyle.
A number of studies show the impact of meat production on the environment. One such study shows that the production of one kilogram of beef is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution than driving for three hours while leaving all the lights on at home. The gas is produced as methane from the digestive systems of the animals.
Check out this fact as well. A vegetarian diet uses less water. It takes far less water to produce plant protein than meat. An 8 oz chicken breast takes over 542 litres of water to produce. Enough to fill your bath tub six and a half times.
How about this. More agricultural land is used to raise cattle than all other domesticated animals and crops combined. A vegetarian diet requires two-and-a-half times less the amount of land needed to grow food, compared to a meat-based diet. Livestock in the UK eat more than half of the 20 million tonnes of cereal grown. That’s over 50% of wheat and 60% of barley.
Amazing, isn’t it!
Of course, lifestyle is more than just food. It is wholistic. It includes breathing fresh air, exercise, drinking adequate amounts of water, getting enough sunshine, self-control, getting enough sleep. To top it all off you get peace by trusting in the Divine Power. See 8 Steps to Good Health.
Adopting a vegetarian lifestyle, that is, making the decision to exclude flesh foods from your diet (as well as obeying those rules listed above), has tremendous benefits, not only for you and your health but also for the environment.
Go ahead. Make the change and experience the benefits.
Please share you thoughts or experiences in the comments section below.