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Diet plays an important role for our body health. Choosing the right, healthy and balance in diet is very important for everyone. One way to stay healthy is by adopting a vegetarian diet. A vegan diet is a plant-based diet that includes only natural foods and does not include meat at all. It can also be considered as a cruelty-free act to the nature because by switching and adopting a vegetarian diet, human societies will be able to alleviate the needless suffering and deaths of countless animals. The average American meat-eater is responsible for the abuse and death of about 90 animals per year. Human beings do not need to eat meat in order to maintain a good health. This is because they can also get all the nutrition and their food needs from meatless product. Vegetarian diet is currently increasing in popularity and the number of vegetarian is rising so quickly because they have seen many significant effects that contribute to a better health. According to a 2006 Mintel survey, 6% of the population, which is about 3.6 million people, is vegetarians, and 10% eat no red meat which somehow showed that UK has the largest proportion of vegetarian in its population among the European country. (The Number of Vegetarian, n.d.) As whole, over half of the world population is vegetarian. They start to care about animals and stand up for the animals' right. In fact, a vegetarian diet offers many benefits to human beings that are guards against disease, physical benefits, conserve natural resources, nutritional benefits, and improve the environment.
A vegetarian diet is considered as healthy as it has shown to guards against diseases. According to new medical research, a person who adopts plant-based diet is one third less likely to suffer from diabetes and cardiovascular diseases such as heart diseases and stroke. People tend to stand a better chance of not developing the high blood pressure and bad cholesterol that might affect their health problem. According to a study from German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, vegetarians' have more effective and strong immune systems to kill tumor cells in the body compared to meat eaters'. (Dworkin 1999). There are several risk factors of metabolic syndrome, which are high blood pressure, high glucose levels, high triglycerides which are fat levels in the body, and having a big waistband. Dr Rebecca Reynolds, a reader in endocrinology and diabetes at University of Edinburgh Centre for Cardiovascular Sciences, said: "Metabolic syndrome is very prevalent in Scotland because it linked in with obesity and Scotland has some of the highest obesity rates in Europe. Studies have shown that Mediterranean style diet is also beneficial to our body health because people who are vegetarian consume more fruit, vegetables and olive oil." (Newbury 2011). Improvement of cardiovascular health can be done by the consumption of nuts and wholegrain, at the same time; it can also eliminate the consumption of meat and dairy products. A British study indicates that a vegan diet reduces the risk for the biggest killer - heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. On the other hand, according to the American Dietetic Association, vegetarians tend to have a lower risk of getting obesity, breast cancer, and prostate cancer other than cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Obesity is very common especially in America. According to former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, 70% of all Americans are dying from different types of diseases which directly tied to their eating habits. (Dworkin 1999). This is because in the American diet, there are too much of carbohydrates, proteins, oils, fats, and sugar. A very clear and obvious example is their morning breakfast that includes of sausages, chicken ham, french fries, fried eggs, and accompanied by milk or orange juice. Sausages and chicken ham are processed food which made from animal meat. As we know, processed foods are extremely bad for our health because it contains of preservatives, toxins, and unnatural fillers that will cause kidney failures if we over consume it. Studies have shown that a diet high in animal products and dairy products which contain huge amount of hormones and saturated fat can cause breast cancer. However, there's a huge connection and relationship between vegetarian diet and breast cancer. A vegetarian diet can help prevent and even reverse it, which is taking a diet low in sugar, dairy products, and meat but high in leafy greens, fruits and vitamin D. Vitamin D is an immune system booster that has the special ability to attack breast cancer cells by preventing the cancer cells from multiplying to more and more cancer cells in the body. "Vitamin D is a key component in helping the body responds to many different kinds of assaults and stimuli," says Robert Heaney, Ph.D., professor of medicine at Creighton University. (Biggar 2009). Vitamin D can be obtained from natural foods such as mushrooms, soy milk, and dark leafy green vegetables. Research found that consumption of isoflavone containing soy products such as tofu during childhood and adolescence protects women against the risk of breast cancer later in life. (Am & Clin 2009). Vegetables and fruits also contain phytochemicals that help destroy tumour in the body. (Biggar 2009). A Harvard Medical School study of more than 90,000 women revealed that the women who often consume meat everyday are twice as likely to develop breast cancer as those who did not often consume meat. (Sloan 2008). Too much of meat consumption will also lead to certain degenerative diseases such as Parkinson's, Huntington's, and Alzheimer's disease when human being start to get older. As the famous saying goes like this, "you are what you eat". Subsequently, vegetarian diets can reduce the risk of getting diseases that can affect body health and cause death.
Vegetarian diet is much better than diet that contains meat because of physical benefits. Several population studies showed that people who adopt a vegetarian diet tend to have lower body mass index (BMI), which is the indicator of weight and fat of the body. This is normally associated with high intake of fibre and low intake of animal fat. Vegetarians may also have a higher metabolic rate compared to meat eaters. In a study of lacto-ovo vegetarians, one of the types of diet, resting metabolic rate (RMR) was 11% higher in vegetarian compared to meat eaters. This was partly due to a higher level of plasma norepinephrine which results from higher intake of carbohydrate and lower fat intake of vegetarians. (Mangels, Messina & Messina 2004). Vegetarians will usually have better and good-looking skin textures. For instance, nuts such as almond, pumpkin seed, sesame seed, sunflower seed, vegetables that contain vitamin A and E play a big role for this part. A remarkable reduction in blemishes and improvement in the skin texture can be seen once a meat eater changes to a vegetarian diet. Vitamin A and E are actually effective and strong antioxidants that can help neutralize free radicals in our body. A vegetarian diet is especially beneficial to female or woman who wants to look younger and live a healthier lifestyle because it prevents the aging and damage of the skin. Fruits that could improve the skin condition are tomatoes, watermelon, cucumber, apples, and papaya. Tomatoes are rich in vitamins A and contain iron. It is a strong antioxidant that helps fight cancer as well. Cucumber is a natural cooling and brightening agent of the skin. You can simply consume it or slice it into pieces and put it on to the face. Apples and papaya contains vitamins and high in fibers. These fruits are very useful for people who have constipation problem and high cholesterol. In addition, several studies indicate that people who adopt vegetarian lifestyle live an average of 3 to 6 years longer than those who do not. According to a study from Loma Linda University, vegetarians live about 7 to 15 years longer than people who are not vegetarian. (Dworkin 1999). This can be proven with the example of monk. Buddhist monks are vegetarian and they do not consume meat at all. This is because in their belief and religion, killing and eating the animal is a sin and it's cruel. It will also go against their beliefs and religion. Therefore, there is no doubt that monk who adopts vegetarian diet for the rest of their life would normally live longer than normal people. Some monks are even as old as 100 years above. Besides, nail health is considered as an indicator of a person's body health. You can see the person's health by looking at their fingernails. People who are vegetarian tend to have a healthier and longer nails, which indicates that they are healthy. People who normally consume meat and have lesser intake of vegetables tend to have a shorter and yellowish nails. This indicates that their health is at risk. Research showed that vegan diet helps reduce the suffering from Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) for female. The diet includes reduction of meat consumption but increase in consumption of complex carbohydrates, leafy green vegetables, fruit, cereals and whole grains. (Cornforth 2009). A vegetarian diet also helps to stop allergies for a certain people. Researchers found that people report lesser personal problems such as runny nose and asthma when they switched to a vegetarian diet. This is basically due to the reduction of common food trigger that contains hormones and toxins such as meat, dairy and eggs. As a matter of fact, a vegetarian tend to be thinner than meat eater. Harvard's long-term Nurses' Health found that thin people have only one-third the risk of getting asthma compared to meat eaters. (Barnard, n.d.) For instance, if overweight people adopt a vegetarian diet, they are more likely to lose their weight and alleviate asthma because people who are thin normally do not have asthma problem. All of these are the results and physical benefits that can be gained from a vegetarian diet.
Furthermore, a vegetarian diet does not only beneficial to human beings in terms of health; it also contributes to conserve natural resources. The meat industry is very wasteful of natural resources. Approximately 10 pounds of plants are needed to be fed to the animals in order to produce one pound of meat, which is also one of the inherent problem of eating meat. (Bronk & Su 2006). Thus, 70% of grain grown is almost used to feed the animals in America, which means much more food is being consumed to support the animals than would be needed if more people were vegetarians. (Bronk & Su 2006). Due to the extreme and increasing growth of animals feed, the meat industry require a huge amount of water in order to grow the grain and feed the animals. Vegetarian author John Robbins calculates that it takes 168, and 229 pounds of water to produce one pound of maize and rice respectively. (Vidal 2010). On the other hand, a pound of beef requires approximately 8000-9,000 litres of water. Pigs are one of the thirstiest animals in the world. An average-sized of pig farm in North America with about 80,000 pigs requires nearly 75 million gallons of fresh water to feed the pig in a year. (Vidal 2010). In contrast, a large sized of pig farm with more than millions of pigs may requires the water as much as a city. When the demand for meat increases, the uses of water in the meat industry and farming land will rise as well. Consequently, there will be lesser source of water available for the crops and also drinking for human beings. (Bronk & Su 2006) say that almost half of the water that is consumed in the America is mostly being used by the meat industry and the groundwater is being withdrawn 25% faster than it is being replenished. In order to conserve energy in terms of water resources, the best choice and option is to adopt a vegetarian diet. This is because when people start by vegetarian diets, they will consume lesser meat in their daily diets. As a result, lesser amount of water will be used to grow the grains and the number of animals to be fed by the meat industry will greatly be reduced. This can also be said to conserve water resources because there will be a sufficient amount of water to provide to both human beings and animals in the world. Other than that, vegetarian can also conserve energy in terms of oil. Oil crisis is one of the major problems faced by human beings in the world currently. (Bronk & Su 2006) also say that 8 times as much fossil fuel energy is being used in the production of animal protein as is used in the plant protein production. There are actually some reasons for this. In fact, fuel is needed for manufacturing pesticides and fertilizers to grow grains and crops for animal feed. Besides, fuel is needed for transportation in the meat industry and also the operation of machinery in the farming industries. In this case, it is said that about 400 gallons of fossil fuels are being used in order to produce foods for the average meat-eating for the American each year. (Bronk & Su 2006). Therefore, it is the truth that vegetarian diet can actually help to conserve natural resources in terms of water and fuel.
Critics of vegetarianism claim that being a vegetarian is not good for our body because a vegetarian diet is lack of animal fat, protein, each of the 9 amino acids, iron and calcium, which scientific evidence showed that human need these nutrients for an optimum health. It is true that vegetarian diet could not afford to provide animal fats and other essential nutrients that our body somehow needs it. Yet, a vegetarian diet offers much more other extra nutritional benefits to our body compared to a diet containing meat. It does not mean that you need to consume meat in order to achieve an optimum health level. A carefully planned vegetarian diet can still provide an optimal health for everyone. There is always another alternative ways to get it. For example, vegetarian foods such as nuts, seeds, and dark leafy greens provide magnesium that aids the absorption of calcium. Nuts such as almonds are a great source of protein for vegetarian other than providing vitamin E, calcium, magnesium and zinc. In addition, almond can helps lower the cholesterol level especially for the elders. According to a study from Health Research and Studies Centre, they found out that almonds are even better than olive oil in lowering LDL cholesterol. (Top ten vegan super foods 2009). Other than that, seeds such as pumpkin seeds contains high amount of amino acids, calcium, potassium, magnesium and tryptophan. Tryptophan is one of the essential amino acids that aids in the production of serotonin in our body. Serotonin is actually one kind of hormone that can make us feel happier and lively. It is considered as "happiness hormone" despite it is not really a hormone. This is because it sort of activates our brains and able to makes us to be more lively and energetic than normal. Several studies has shown that pumpkin seeds contain one kind of special compound called phytosterol that helps enhance and improve the body's immune system. (Top ten vegan super foods 2009). By adding pumpkin seeds into our daily diets, it can also help to reduce the inflammation on our body. We can also get the source of protein from several vegetarian foods such as beans, tofu and other soy products. In order to gain a classic combination that provides complete protein, a vegetarian is advised to eat beans and grains together to get the optimum result. This is because beans actually do not contain the complete amount of protein in it. Certain brand of tofu or soy milk is fortified with extra beneficial nutrients such as calcium and potassium for the need of a vegetarian. Soy protein has been shown to have as much proteins as in meat. (American Heart Association, n.d.).
Kcal from protein
90 (29% from protein)
51 (16% from protein)
Source: Collins Gem's Calorie Counter (averaged for raw meat)
(Patel, n.d.) showed the amount of daily requirement for energy in terms of calories and protein based on the table as shown above. An assumption of calorie requirement for normal active lifestyle is made, which is 2400 Kcal every day. Experts say that 10% of calorie should come from the source of protein. As 1g of protein generates 4 Kcal, it is said that human being requires 60g of protein every day. (Patel, n.d.) Based on the table above, wheat provides 51 Kcal of calorie from protein which somehow reached the amount of daily requirement for energy. In contrast, the calorie in beef is much higher than that, which is 90 Kcal. This is considered as too much of calorie for a normal healthy diet. Moreover, a vegetarian have a higher risk of having iron deficiency compared to a meat eater. For meat eaters, iron can be found in meat products such as red meat, liver and egg yolk. However, we can also get it from the plant sources such as dried beans and spinach. Hence, it is not necessary to consume meat in order to get iron. Plant-based diet alone can already provide as much nutrient as what meat can provide to us. It is also not a healthy way to get protein just by eating meat alone. You will get surprise when you get older because all those symptoms of diseases would appear due to a long-term of meat consumption.
One of the arguments put forward to support the view that vegetarian diet could not contribute much towards saving the environment. Although this statement may be true, but there is no doubt that a vegetarian diet can actually save the environment and make the world a better place to live in. A vegetarian helps to reduce the destruction of rainforest and save the wildlife habitat. Malaysia is a clear example of country that has rainforest. Rainforest is very important in the world. This is due to several reasons such as regulating the global climates; regulate the cycle of water, and the absorption of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The environmental community has recognizes global warming as one of the gravest threats to the planet. (Mohr, n.d.). Unfortunately, mankind in this century have become more and more obsessed with the earning of maximum profits. People only think of earning as much as they could. As a result, rainforest is being cut down and enormous of fires are used to burn down these forests in order to have more space to raise the cattle before the meats, typically found in hamburgers and processed meat, are being sold out in the market. Approximately a football field of rainforest is being destroyed in order to produce 257 hamburgers for the population every second! (Animal rights and Vegetarianism, n.d.). By switching to a vegetarian diet, we can actually save a lot of animals and also their habitat. Hundreds of thousands of animals are innocently being killed by human every year. Some corporations even inject certain chemicals, hormones, or veterinary drugs into the body of the animals so that they could grow faster and reproduce more. This is to enhance their production and gain more profits. For examples, chicken and beef cattle are injected with growing hormones. What goes beyond the doors of the corporations and industries are extremely terrible and insane. Animals are regularly being butchered alive on speeded-up conveyor lines. These innocent living things are forced to be killed for human use and purposes, where in fact human have no right to do that at all. If people still continue to kill huge number of animals just to feed the human beings, one day, these animals will extinct forever and our next generation will have to pay the price for what human being are doing right now. Like the quote that says, "When the buying stops, the killing stops." A vegetarian diet also reduces water pollution and land pollution. In the modern and high technology society, a large amount of grains are sprayed with different types of fertilisers such as herbicides and pesticides by factories in order to feed the cattle. These two chemicals are very harmful and acidic. Extreme amount of acidic chemical will destroy the top soil and leak into rivers and grounds. Over 4 million acres of cropland are lost to erosion in the US every year due to plundering farmlands to fatten animals. (Animal rights and Vegetarianism, n.d.) When these chemicals flow into the oceans and seas through the river, this causes the deaths of millions of fishes. Other than that, meat industry contributes significantly to global warming as well. For example, methane that is released by bacteria in the rumens of cattle worsens global warming. This is because methane is a relatively potent greenhouse gas that will raises global temperature. Burning down of forest will also release carbon dioxide gas into the atmosphere. As a result, this would cause the temperature to rise and global warming worsens from day to day. Thus, a vegetarian diet can reduces the production of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The damage to the environment does not stop at cattle or chicken, the fishing industry also somehow contributes to the degradation of environment. What does this means? It actually means that many different species of fishes are being caught away by fisherman faster than they can reproduce. (Bronk & Su 2006). This damaged the ecosystem of the oceans and sea, which in turn, affect the whole environment and worsen global warming. Approximately 300,000 different types of sea animals such as whales, dolphins and porpoises are being killed every year before their meats are being sold in the supermarket. (Bronk & Su 2006). Thus, by switching to a simple and easy vegetarian diet, we can actually conserve the environment and preserve the nature's biodiversity without spending too much money or figure out the other alternative ways.
All in all, a vegetarian diet contributes a lot to humans' lifestyle, eating habits and the environment and there are numerous of benefits of it. Basically, animals and human can actually get the nutrients required for the body from plants, and not by animals itself. Human are actually getting the nutrients from second-hand sources if they eat meat. If they eat the animals, all the toxins, hormones and chemical will automatically go into the stomach which is hard to be expelled and removed from the body. The truth is that a vegetarian diet even contains sufficient beneficial nutrients for the body which they have been mistakenly claimed to be lacking in, especially protein. (Health Benefits, n.d). As a matter of fact, the anatomies of herbivores, carnivores and human are compared which shows that man is actually vegetarian by nature. (Doshi, n.d.). The comparison can be shown in the table below.
Have claws for killing
Have no claws
Have no claws
Sharp front teeth for tearing meat
No sharp front teeth
No sharp teeth
Stomach acid is twenty times strong
Weak acid in stomach
Weak acid in stomach
Perspire through tongue
Perspire through skin
Perspire through skin
The above table has clearly shown that human beings are naturally a vegetarian and should not be a meat eater. This has strongly support the fact that vegetarian diets is much better and healthier than a diet that contains meat. In order to produce meat for meat eaters, human need to kill billions of animals to fulfil the need of population in the world. However, human do not need to kill a plant to obtain vegetarian food. This is not only an act of kindness to the animal, which is a living like human being; it also shows the appreciation to the nature and conserves the environment.