Vegetarianism: What, How, and Why?

February 11, 2019
Today's post comes from Environmental Intern Rhianna Haynie-Cion.
All around the world, restaurants are devoting large sections of their menus to vegetable dishes. You start hearing the word “Tofurkey” used around Thanksgiving. Why is it that people are rapidly converting to vegetarianism, and is it truly as impactful as sources state? 
According to a recent poll by the Vegetarian Resource group, approximately 6-8 million adults currently do not consume any meat, fish, or poultry, and several million more have permanently eliminated red meats from their diets. An additional two million have gone vegan, eliminating all animal-based products, including milk, cheese, and even honey (Harvard). Vegetarians are normally categorized as people that do not consume meat or fish but will often eat eggs, dairy products, and honey. A person may choose to go vegetarian because they enjoy better health by eating more plant-based foods and being more active in making healthy choices. Often, vegetarian foods tend to be lower in fats and higher in fiber than animal-based foods. It is important, when going vegetarian, to choose whole-grain products when possible, and follow a varied diet with grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, eggs, etc. Additionally, having a sufficient intake of vitamin B12, vitamin D, and zinc is extremely important when following a vegetarian diet, for many vegetarians have a tendency to lack these nutrients, which can be vital in cell metabolism and immune function (Nordqvist). 
Why take the risk of losing nutrients in your body, and maybe cutting out your favorite foods? Studies continue to confirm the health benefits of a more plant-based diet. The American Dietetic Association has confirmed the reduced risk for many chronic illnesses when following a vegetarian diet. Vegetarians tend to consume less saturated fat and cholesterol, and more vitamins, fibers, and electrolytes, resulting in an approximate 25% decrease for risk of heart disease (Harvard). Studies have shown a correlation between vegetarianism and a 30% reduction in bad cholesterol and blood pressure, and have inferred that eliminating red meats lowers the risk of many different types of cancer. 
While many like to categorize their eating habits as “vegetarian”, “meat eater”, “vegan”, etc., it is much more important to be conscious about what you are eating. By going vegetarian just once a week, or eating all meats other than beef, your intake habits have the ability to impact your future health, as well as the greater world around us.
If you feel like trying out a plant based meal today, check out Carrillo Dining Commons. Carrillo is celebrating Green Monday, which means they are offering a wonderful vegetarian diet all day!

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