I had never seen a vegetarian before coming to the U.S. I am sure there are vegetarians in China, just the number is a lot lower than that in U.S. I did not understand why people become vegetarians – meat is such a delicious thing, then why would anyone give up eating meat? I once asked one of my American friends, and she said that she was raised as a vegetarian. That does not really answer my question: why do people become vegetarians, besides the family reasons?
It turns out that people may become vegetarians for multiple reasons such as environment, ethical reasons and food shortage. The environment determines how much land and resources like water can be used in producing food, and cattle usually requires much more resources than just vegetation. Some people do not want to see lives die to become food. The food shortage may restrict people’s resources of meat as well.
However, health is usually what most vegetarians concern. There are researches about the nutritional status of different diets in different periods. There are three phrases in the research: deficiency, optimal and excess. The research shows that in 1960s, people think that vegetarian diet might cause deficiency and meat-based diet was perfectly optimal. Another research in 1970s shows that people began to raise awareness in meat-based diet, as it was considered to have the risk of excess. Nowadays, people started to think that meat-based diet may cause both deficiency and excess, and vegetarian diet is the perfectly optimal one.
This change can be caused by multiple reasons. Firstly, as the technology of transportation and farming grows, people have access to all kinds of fruits and vegetables that contain different kinds of nutritions. Secondly, scientific research has provided evidence that planted foods provide more than just essential nutrients, but also substances like ascorbic acid and fiber. On the other hand, meat-based diet most of the times can not provide enough vitamins nor provide excessive fat.
The research done by Adventist Health Study shows the association between consumption of food and cancer. Meat is considered to be hazardous as it increases the risks of colon cancer, bladder cancer, prostate cancer and fatal ischemic heart disease. At the same time, vegetables, fruits and nuts are often considered to be protective to human as they reduces the risks of a lot of types of cancers. This research provides another strong reason why people choose to become vegetarians. No one wants cancer, and staying away from meat can help reduce the probability of getting cancer.
In conclusion, vegetarian can be a healthier way of living. However, for people like me, who can never giving up eating meat, choosing a more appropriate diet seems to be a good option if we want to get enough nutrition and stay away from cancers.