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It was decided by fifth grade. I would never eat meat again, and that was that.
When kids are young—when I was little at least—big decisions either meant nothing or everything. I mean that in this way: something life-changing could stress me for weeks or simply brush by my shoulders. Becoming vegetarian was seemingly the easiest task I could partake in.
The first question I always encounter when discussing being a vegetarian is “Why?” I think this is a hard question to answer. Ten-year-old me did this for a few main reasons. First, because I felt it was inhumane. Second, I just felt gross eating something that had once been alive. But, I think the better question people should start asking is, “Why did you stay vegetarian?” or “Why are you still vegetarian?”
Maybe one would argue that being fifteen, I am not wise and don’t make great decisions. But, I think many would attest that I am more informed than I was at age ten. And although I could write pages and pages on how slaughtering animals is abuse, and factory farming fuels carbon emissions and impacts the environment in various ways, for now, I would rather tell you why your body deserves to be vegetarian.
First, I will address one major argument I hear time after time: “The human body was designed to eat meat.”
Inside the human mouth, we lack carnassial teeth. Carnivorous mammals have this within their mouths, humans do not.
These teeth are in place to rip, shred, and chew meat and raw flesh. Forks and knives are not readily available to the majority of species, so naturally, these teeth are how most make due (“NPR Choice Page”).
Regularly, the “Why?” question is shortly followed by “How can you get enough protein?”
We overestimate the importance of protein in a diet. Not only that, but we act as if meat is the only place we can get this nutrient; it is not.
Plants naturally have protein. Many legumes, soy products, whole grains, and nuts can be used to obtain protein. Yes, the amount of protein from each source is lessened, but these items are not paired with the same obvious downfalls of meat.
Red meat manages to increase your risk of heart attack or heart disease. Stiffer arteries, smaller ventricles, and poorer heart functions are all associated with higher consumption rates of red meat. (“Study Strengthens Links between Red Meat and Heart Disease”)
Non-meat eaters also find vitamins C and E, dietary fiber, folic acid, potassium, magnesium, and phytochemicals with more regularity in their diets. The result: they have a lower LDL cholesterol, and blood pressure and body mass index are lowered. (Harvard Health Publishing)
If we are ignoring the inhumane side of meat-eating for the entirety of this article, I guess I can justify the eating of white meats (birds, fish, shellfish, etc.), from a health standpoint. Though in no way is meat a necessity to the body; white meats have less of the devastating health effects red meats hold because they contain less saturated fats. Still, when the option is present, plant-based is the cleaner choice.
Eating clean is a luxury not all people are able to afford or manage, and I completely understand that. Fully ending meat-eating may not be as simple for others as it was for eleven-year-old me, but making cuts when possible can be truly beneficial to your health if replaced with the correct foods.
Protein has been in some sense “overrated,” and has overshadowed the idea that being vegetarian is unhealthy.
In the future, when someone presents me with the question, “Why are you vegetarian?” I can see myself pulling my phone from my pocket and showing them this article. I can only imagine the time saved by doing this. Before doubting a diet or eating style someone uses, I could only hope people did a just little more research. If not, I am more than happy to do it for them.