World Vegetarian Day (Content You Can Steal)

October 1st is World Vegetarian Day, and it kicks off a month devoted to promoting the benefits of vegetarianism. First established in 1977 by the North American Vegetarian Society, the day is now observed all over the world with potluck dinners, parties, food-tasting events, and conversations about what it means to eat a meat-free, plant-based diet.

Definition Of Vegetarianism

world vegetarian day

Vegetarianism is defined as a diet that excludes every form of meat, including fish and shellfish and by-products of animal slaughter, like gelatin. Vegetarians consume primarily fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, fungi (mushrooms), and yeast, and they may or may not include eggs and dairy products in their diet. According to the UK’s Vegetarian Society, there are four types of vegetarians: those who eat both dairy products and eggs, those who consume eggs but not dairy, those who consume dairy but not eggs, and vegans, who consume no animal products whatsoever.

Popularity Of Vegetarianism

In the not-too-distant past, vegetarians were seen as being very much on the fringe of mainstream society, but modern society is far more accepting of people who choose a plant-based diet. In fact, “plant-based” has been identified as the dominant food trend of 2018 and has been called “the new organic.” This is reflected in the growing number of plant-based products on grocery store shelves and restaurant menus.  Though vegetarians are still a minority in most countries, their numbers have been increasing steadily and have made some dramatic leaps in recent years.

Reasons For Practicing A Vegetarian Diet

There are many reasons why people all over the world choose a vegetarian diet.

Religious Beliefs

For some, the choice is motivated by their religion. For example, in India, there are more vegetarians than in any other country in the world because the major religions in that country (Jainism, Hinduism, and Buddhism) either require or recommend avoiding meat.

vegetarian lifestyle

Environmental Concerns

Others opt to eat a plant-based diet due to a concern for the environment, observing that animal agriculture is contributing to climate change, air and water pollution, and soil degradation. In addition, raising animals for food consumes far more water and soil resources than cultivating plants.

Animal Welfare Concerns

Concern for animal welfare is another reason why many people turn to a vegetarian diet. They choose not to contribute to the suffering of animals that are bred for human consumption.

Desire For Optimal Health

Finally, a vegetarian diet is seen by many, including many physicians, as a healthier diet than one that is dominated by meat. Vegetarianism is considered beneficial for maintaining a healthy weight and lowering the risk of several health conditions

The Health Benefits Of Vegetarianism

A vegetarian diet can be a healthful alternative to the standard American diet, which is high in processed foods and animal products and very low in fruits and vegetables. Most Americans who consume the standard diet rarely manage to get the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. The following are some of the major benefits of switching from a meat-based to a plant-based diet.

vegetarian cooking

Lower BMI

Obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. However, people who consume a vegetarian or vegan diet are much more likely to have a healthy BMI than those who consume a diet that is heavy in animal products. In a 2014 study of diet and BMI, 30% of carnivores were identified as overweight or obese, while only 18% of vegans had a BMI above the healthy range.

Lower Risk Of Heart Disease

Since a vegetarian diet tends to be low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in fiber, vegetarians have a lower risk of high cholesterol and high blood pressure, two conditions that contribute to the risk of heart disease. In a recent study, vegetarians were found to be 25% less likely to die of heart disease than carnivores with similar habits (e.g., non-smokers and non-drinkers).

Lower Risk Of Cancer

Vegetarianism is also associated with a lower risk of developing certain types of cancer. High consumption of fruits, vegetables, and fiber-rich foods is considered protective against some types of cancer, and avoiding red meat in particular leads to a significantly lower risk of colon cancer.

Lower Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes

Since vegetarians tend to have a lower BMI than carnivores, they are also less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, which is associated with overweight and obesity. Studies even show that carnivores who maintain a healthy BMI are more likely to develop diabetes than vegetarians with a similar BMI.

First Steps To Becoming Vegetarian

It’s usually not realistic to make a major life change overnight, so most people prefer to take a more gradual approach. The following are some first steps toward becoming a vegetarian.

Start With One Meat-Free Day Per Week

vegetarian recipes

One way to get started with vegetarianism is to plan one meat-free day per week.  Planning three vegetarian meals for a single day will help you discover what your options are in terms of plant-based foods you enjoy and vegetarian restaurant meals in your area. By practicing Meatless Mondays (or whatever day you choose), you can start right away to reduce your meat consumption and your carbon footprint.

Try New Recipes

Many people worry about what to eat on a vegetarian diet, especially if they are unaccustomed to eating meat-free meals. Some people are able to simply substitute vegetarian “meat” (like tofu or seitan) in their favorite dishes, but not everyone can easily acquire a taste for these products. Fortunately, it is not necessary to eat a lot of tofu to enjoy the benefits of a vegetarian diet. Instead, look for vegetarian recipes that are rich in your favorite legumes and starchy vegetables.

Connect With Other Vegetarians

Participating in vegetarian groups or vegetarian website discussion boards can be a great way to get ideas about what to eat and how to maintain a healthy diet without meat. Talking with other vegetarians can also provide motivation to stay on track as you’re making the transition.

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