Vegetarianism is a diet that excludes meat and fish. Stricter forms of vegetarianism may include avoiding food for which animals are not killed but exploited, such as dairy products and eggs. According to the World Health Organization (2021), “Low fruit and vegetable consumption are linked to poor health and increased risk of disease” (p. 2). Many vegetarians eschew leather, down, and wool clothing and medicines made with animal materials or tested on animals. According to the World Health Organization (2021), “noncommunicable diseases are responsible for 71% of premature death globally” (p. 2). The risk of contracting such diseases is significantly reduced in vegetarians.
Vegetarianism is a unique food system that has many advantages. However, it is worth carefully approaching the issue of forming a diet based on plants. Forming a proper diet is worth carefully developing a system that will help get rid of meat in the diet and benefit health. Jacimovic (2022) states, 20% of the world’s population are vegetarians. However, this is not enough to reduce the adverse effects of meat production. Switching people globally to vegetarianism could save $1 trillion annually (Jacimovic, 2022). This is a severe argument not only for people but also for large corporations that produce meat. They could instead turn to growing vegetables and fruits, bringing them even more income.
The Vegetarian Diet Benefits on the Body
Vegetarianism has many benefits for the human body. Dairy products and meats are high in saturated fats. By minimizing them in the diet, a person will improve the state of the cardiovascular system and overall health. According to Clem and Barthel (2021), “vegetarians were found to have 24% lower rates of death from ischemic heart disease than those who ate meat” (p. 234). A diet high in dietary fiber leads to healthier bowel movements. Therefore, the high fiber content in the diet helps prevent colon cancer. A vegetarian diet can provide the body with all the important nutrients like magnesium (Bowman, 2020). It aids calcium absorption and is essential for a healthy diet. Nuts, seeds, and dark green leaves are excellent sources of this element. According to Warwick and Brazier (2020), a plant-based diet helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, as well as cancer and diabetes. In addition, a plant-based diet is high in vitamins C and E. In addition to boosting the immune system, vitamin C helps keep gums beautiful and healthy, and bruises heal faster. Vitamin E is good for the heart, skin, eyes, and brain and may even help prevent Alzheimer’s.
For many who follow a vegetarian diet, hair becomes healthier: stronger, shinier, and less shedding. The same goes for nails, which become less brittle. A diet high in whole grains can lower high blood pressure. Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens, carrots, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes, can help prevent the onset of age-related macular degeneration. In addition, a vegetarian diet can prevent the development of cataracts.
The Effect on the Environment
Vegetarianism involves the complete rejection of animal products. For their products, many animals are grown, from chickens to cows, which significantly affects the environment. According to the Vegetarian Society (n.d.), “Eating a veggie diet means 2.5x fewer carbon emissions than a meat diet” (para 3). Animal farming results in increased concentrations of several types of greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide from the respiration of animals and methane from the digestion of livestock. In addition, this is only the direct formation of gases, but there are also indirect reasons that increase the level of gases. Among such factors are the use of chemicals for processing meat products, the consequences of treating zoonotic infections in animals, and the work of storing and transporting animals and products. Because meat production is a food product, a significant part of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere is generated.
In addition to the above reason, there is also the problem of enormous water consumption. Animal husbandry uses it at all stages: watering fodder crops, drinking, washing, and processing meat. The meat industry consumes more fresh drinking water than directly for human drinking. The functioning of the livestock industry requires allocating vast areas of land that go to forage crops, farms, and production lines. In most cases, these areas are no longer suitable for restoration and are entirely degraded. Landscapes are completely changing, and waste products and chemicals pollute the soil.
The Rise of a Plant-Based Diet and Its Effect on the Meat Industry
Plant-based diets are becoming popular due to their benefits People are starting to buy more plant based food every year as they are health conscious (Fuentes, M. & Fuentes, C, 2022). This confirms that global meat consumption tends to decrease every year. Aschemann-Witzel et al. (2021) believe that the market for plant-based food will expand and demand will increase. This indicates that plant-based meat substitutes already occupy a significant market share that used to belong to the food of animal origin.
Vegetarianism, due to its constant development and spread, strongly influences the meat industry. It significantly reduces the share of meat products consumed in food. At the same time, its production is also reduced. According to Niemyjska et al. (2018), human meat consumption is declining as more people adopt a vegetarian lifestyle. This significantly impacts the environment since the meat industry pollutes the environment. In 2019 people ate 17% less meat 2019 compared to 2008 (Vegetarian Society, n.d.). In addition, the influence of plant-based diets has led to the developing of synthetic meat from plants. That in the future, will completely abandon animal husbandry.
The Benefits of Being Vegetarian
Eating food of plant origin eliminates many shortcomings and benefits the body. Vegetable products are less caloric, and their fat content is lower. This means that vegetarians are less likely to be overweight than meat eaters. Refusal of meat, especially at the beginning of the transition to a new food system, leads to an increase in the amount of food a person eats. However, at the same time, body weight gradually decreases.
Another benefit of being a vegan is the reduced risk of stomach problems. According to Kim et al. (2020), a vegetarian diet benefits human health and the environment. Plant foods contain a lot of fiber, which is necessary for the normal functioning of the gastrointestinal tract and intestinal motility. Fiber stimulates the natural elimination of toxins and decay products and helps eliminate bloating, chronic constipation, and dysbacteriosis. There is practically no fiber in animal products.
The next benefit of a vegan diet is the normalization of metabolism and the reduction of bad cholesterol in the body. Most often, plant foods are prepared with less salt, reducing the kidney burden and minimizing the risk of edema. One crucial advantage of vegetarianism is that a plant-based diet normalizes hormonal levels and benefits reproductive function. This is due to the high potassium and magnesium content in such food.
How to Start a Plant-Based Diet
There are many positive aspects to eating plant-based foods. A sudden transition to an entirely new nutritional system may not suit everyone, so starting the transition with care is essential. If a person suffers from chronic diseases, it is worth consulting a doctor to be sure that switching to a plant-based diet will not harm health. For better control of protein intake, it is worth keeping daily records of protein intake levels (Mariotti & Gardner, 2019). Such records will help to form the right eating habits and follow them. Switching from an animal- to plant-based foods will significantly simplify the schedule for reducing meat intake. Thus, a person will gradually wean from it and completely eat vegetables, fruits, and root crops that saturate them.
In conclusion, it is worth saying that veganism provides many advantages that a meat diet cannot give a person. In work, it was considered that the way of eating and diets based on plants positively affect the body and the environment. Reducing meat production by switching people to plant foods improves the environment by reducing the greenhouse effect and saving water and land that can be used for other purposes. Switching to a plant-based diet is not difficult and can be done without fasting. Thus, in the modern world, vegetarianism is the best way for a person to take care of his body and the planet.
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Bowman S. A. (2020). A Vegetarian-Style Dietary Pattern Is Associated with Lower Energy, Saturated Fat, and Sodium Intakes; and Higher Whole Grains, Legumes, Nuts, and Soy Intakes by Adults: National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys 2013-2016. Nutrients, 12(9), 2668.
Clem, J., & Barthel, B. (2021). A Look at Plant-Based Diets. Missouri medicine, 118(3), 233–238. Web.
Fuentes, M., & Fuentes, C. (2022). Reconfiguring food materialities: plant-based food consumption practices in antagonistic landscapes. Food, Culture & Society, 25(3), 520-539.
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Mariotti, F., & Gardner, C. D. (2019). Dietary protein and amino acids in vegetarian diets—A review. Nutrients, 11(11), 2661.
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