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Save a cow, eat a vegetarian!

By Gabriel Schneider
Published: March 2009

Vegetarianism is not simply a diet; it’s a conscious life choice, but those who do decide to become vegetarian certainly have to consider maintaining a balanced diet. While there is still debate as to whether being vegetarian is healthier than not being
vegetarian, the fact of the matter is if you are going to choose a certain diet, you have to do it right.

Those who think that vegetarianism is a nutritious alternative to eating meat find that maintaining a healthier heart is a particularly convincing argument’€and the reasons are not hard to find.

Studies have consistently shown that vegetarians have much lower cholesterol levels than non-vegetarians. It’s also not a surprise that heart disease is proven to be less common in vegetarians because vegetarian meals are very low in saturated fat and they usually contain little to no cholesterol.

The list of benefits of vegetarianism goes on; in various scientific studies including those conducted by the American Heart Association, vegetarianism has been proven to lower blood pressure, ­control diabetes, and even prevent certain types of cancer. The United States Department of Agriculture lists essential nutrients to consider in a vegetarian diet on MyPyramid.gov, all of which can be easily attained with conscious food choices. A vegetarian diet meets all of the recommendations for daily nutrients, which includes protein, iron, calcium, zinc, and vitamin B-12.

“In my opinion, senior Ally Bernstein said, “the positives of vegetarianism’€ personal health and environmental health’€ far outweigh the negatives. In a research paper on vegetarianism conducted by Bernstein, she describes the “myriad [of] benefits of a balanced vegetarian diet.

So why doesn’t everyone become vegetarian? In a poll conducted by the Vegetarian Times in 2008, a mere 3.2% of all Americans consider themselves vegetarians and .5% consider themselves vegans. These numbers aren’t surprising in a society where meat has become a centerpiece of American tradition. Think about the Fenway Frank, the Philly cheese-steak, or the bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. While meat is a product of culture, it’s also an appealing food because of its rich taste and hearty, satisfying feeling.

Meat may be harmful to the environment and worse for the body, but society has actually come to accept it as a food representing wealth and times of celebration. The common phrase “bringing home the bacon, might explain this.

Another mindset in American society is what vegetarians call, the “protein myth. American society is swollen with the idea that the body needs a huge amount of protein every day. In the mid 1950′s many dietetic associations supported a daily intake of more than 150% daily value of protein. More recent knowledge suggests that too much protein can actually be harmful. Thus a diet which is not meat based can be just as physically healthy.

Many non-vegetarians still believe that vegetarians cannot possibly get the same amount of protein from grains and beans as from a good piece of meat. Yet the American Dietetic Association states that protein needs can be appropriately met by consuming a variety of plant protein sources such as grains, vegetables, and legumes (peas, beans, and lentils). A variety of plant foods in sufficient quantity can substitute a meat-based diet.

Likewise, the American Heart Association’s web page on vegetarian diets states: “Vegetarian diets can be healthful and nutritionally sound if they’re carefully planned to include essential nutrients. However, a vegetarian diet can be unhealthful if it contains too many calories ¦ and not enough important nutrients. Vegetarians have to maintain a healthy diet to produce much needed energy for everyday.

Bernstein concluded her research paper on vegetarianism with a fitting quotation by Albert Einstein, who eloquently said “nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival for life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.

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