Non-vegetarians often wonder: why do people become vegetarians? They just can't fathom why anyone would want to give up meat and question what vegetarians eat to be nourished as well as satisfied. The truth is there are a number of reasons people decide to become vegetarians and with these different reasons you'll find a variety of types of vegetarians.
Why Do People Become Vegetarians: Four Major Reasons
Being a vegetarian isn't a cut and dried brand, like everyone is exactly the same. Are all meat eaters the same? Some may not eat pork, others may not eat chicken. It's a matter of personal preference or conscience. It's no different for those who choose to give up meat for the vegetarian lifestyle.
One reason people decide to become vegetarian is because they learn about how animals raised for food are treated and forced to live in overcrowded, inhumane conditions before the slaughtering process. For example, chickens are obligated to live in very small cages and are de-beaked. People who believe this is wrong and don't want to support these abhorrent practices choose a vegetarian lifestyle for ethical reasons.
Vegetarians known as vegans choose to not only give up meat but take it a step further. In their efforts to protect animals from being raised for food, they give up all animal products including:
- Wearing wool or leather
- Dairy products including eggs
Other people become vegetarian because they don't like the taste or texture of meat. Some give up meat for health reasons such as the fact that meat is often injected with hormones or preservatives, or because meat is high in cholesterol.
A smaller number of people become vegetarian because of the impact that eating meat has on the environment. For examples, farmers deforest land to create more grazing lands, or vegetarians may cite the amount of grain fed to produce animals for food. This grain could be used to feed thousands of people.
Vegetarianism is also an element of religions like Hinduism and Buddhism. For those who hold to these beliefs, living a vegetarian lifestyle is a way of life that advocates nonviolence and is part of spiritual fulfillment. Other religions that promote vegetarianism are Seventh Day Adventists and Jains.
Vegetarian Health Benefits
Many vegetarians hold a combination of the above beliefs, and while some people look at vegetarianism as extreme, the health benefits cannot be denied. Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop pointed out that 70 percent of Americans suffer from ailments and diseases related to what they eat. Studies confirm that there are advantages to eating vegetarian foods like fresh fruits, vegetables, grains and soy. They promote a healthier, longer life. Other benefits derived from a healthy vegetarian diet include:
- Promotes heart health: Cardiovascular disease is the top cause of death in the U.S. Statistics show that men who eat a meat-based diet have a 50 percent chance of not only developing heart disease but dying from it. If a man chooses to cut meat from his diet, he can reduce his risk of cardiovascular disease by 15 percent. The risk drops to four percent if he cuts meat, dairy and eggs from his diet. This is because a plant based diet doesn't contain saturated fat or cholesterol and yet it provides an abundance of antioxidants and vitamins.
- Reduces grocery budget: While buying fresh produce may seem expensive, if you replace meat with produce estimates say you can save an average of $4,000 annually.
- Reduces Cancer Risks: A study published in The International Journal of Cancer associated red meat with breast cancer. The institute also claims that women who eat meat everyday increase their risk of breast cancer by four times that of non-meat eaters. It's not just about giving up meat either, because women who eat at least one serving of vegetables daily decrease the risk of breast cancer by 20-30 percent.Studies also indicate that eating a vegetarian diet also helps to protect you from:
- Prostate cancer
- Colon cancer
- Skin cancer
- Maintain a Healthy Weight: Even vegetarians can eat too many sweets or starchy carbohydrates which can pack on unwanted pounds. However, overall vegetarians maintain a healthier weight than people who eat meat. This is due to the fact that a plant-based diet contains vegetable proteins and is lower in calories and fat when compared to the Standard American Diet. Because of this, vegetarians decrease their risk of weight related health problems such as:
- Heart disease
- Cleanses the Body: Instead of "doing a cleanse" to detox your body, changing to a vegetarian diet will help clean your body of toxins.
If your family and friends ask, "Why do people become vegetarians?", you can let them know there are a variety of reasons, but the outcome is a healthier and longer life.