This summer I learned a lot about just how detrimental the meat industry is to our environment. That, coupled with some doubts about the ethics of eating meat, lead me to become a vegetarian. I’ve been without meat for almost 6 months now, and haven’t seen a big difference in my overall health. Despite that lack of difference, I’ve been told numerous times by many different people just how much this lack of meat could be effecting me. Some people see it as a positive difference, others think I’m greatly harming myself. So what is the truth?
Although for a long time people have been told of the detriments of not eating meat, in recent years, many studies have confirmed that a plant-based diet is very sufficient in terms of nutrition. In some cases, vegetarianism has actually proven to lower the possibility of certain illnesses, including heart disease. To be clear, a true vegetarian diet that will reap these benefits includes a balances diet of many fruits and vegetables. Sticking to cheese-based food and other junk foods will certainly be a detriment to one’s health. In doing studies on vegetarians, scientists need to be aware of the possibly confounding variables that could related to an unhealthy vegetarian diet.
Additionally, many vegetarians are told that we must not be receiving the necessary amount of protein in our diets. However, in reality, many meat eaters are actually eating too much animal meat. On the contrary, vegetarians receive their protein from a variety of other sources. Broccoli, kale, beans, cheese, and tofu are all staples of most people’s vegetarian diet and all serve to provide protein.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that vegans (an extreme form of vegetarianism where one eats no animal products) were found to have less saturated fats and cholesterol in their diets, and more fiber. Additionally, they were also found to have a lower risk for heart disease. Granted, they were also found to have some certain nutritional deficiencies, but that can be quickly fixed through consciousness of one’s diet and by simply becoming a vegetarian as opposed to a full vegan. The study itself seemed well performed and peer-reviewed, however more research is certainly needed. Doing an longitudinal observational study on the long term effects on a diet like this is needed. A similar study performed over four years regarding just a vegetarian diet found very similar results to the benefits of a vegan diet, without many of the nutritional deficiencies. Because of this, as of right now I believe I have enough evidence to support my alternative hypothesis that a vegetarian (not vegan) has health benefits along with the environmental benefits it also provides.
Long story short: the science is still out on the health aspect, but it looks promising. If you fear climate change in the least, it looks like you should put down that beef burger and pick up a black bean one.