Although for many people it may be hard to imagine themselves giving up burgers or steaks, there are many arguments for consuming less meat. Meat and meat products, as well as the processes used to harvest them, create pollution and expend a lot of energy and resources. Out of overall global greenhouse gas emissions, 1/3 is estimated to come from agriculture, with half of that being produced solely from livestock. Producing the requisite amount of calories needed for an individual to survive off animal sources requires significantly more energy and produces more waste than producing the same amount of calories from plant-sources. Understanding environmental impact of animal agriculture is an important step to recognizing the true expanse of the benefits of a plant-based diet.
Beyond being environmentally detrimental, eating high levels of red meat in one’s diet has shown increased incidence of cancer, heart disease, respiratory disease, diabetes, kidney disease, infections, and stroke. While this news is troubling for meat-eaters, the silver lining seems to be that white meat consumption brings a reduced risk of disease, so not all meat is off-limits. Studies of heart disease have shown significantly lower incidence rates in vegetarians, which is theorized to be due to the anti-inflammatory properties of plant products, as well that non-meat eaters generally have lower levels of cholesterol in their diets. Typically those that eat meatless diets weigh less on average than those who regularly eat meat.
You may have heard of gut bacteria, which are enzymes and creatures that live in your stomach and intestines that help to digest the food that you eat. They are an ecosystem of their own, affected and altered by what we consume. Vegetables and fruits contain proteins and indigestible carbohydrates that alter the different levels of bacteria in the gut. When you switch over to a vegetarian diet, these changes can lead to boosts in the levels of healthy gut bacteria, which can lead to an overabundance of gas in the intestinal tract. This can leave new vegetarians feeling gassy or bloated for a while, but can help you lose waist inches over time. Overall, there are many things to consider in one’s lifestyle that can help you and Planet Earth to live a longer and healthier life.