Persuasive Essay: Is Vegetarianism a Healthier Way of Life?
Healthy lifestyles have come to dominate the minds of many people in the contemporary society, a fact that has brought to life many exciting trends in all aspects of social functioning. As food is directly related to our health, it is no wonder that people have begun to pay increased attention to the food they eat. In particular, this interest has sparked renewal of vegetarianism, which is an easy way to attain a healthy lifestyle through abandoning animal foods.
Vegetarianism has important philosophical grounds related to murdering animals and the fact that all life on earth should be respected and protected. Unlike extreme ideas about animal rights that go as far as forbid people to ride mules for their benefit, advocates of vegetarianism proceed from one simple principle - that killing is wrong and animals have the same right to live. In theory, such a position means that a person is striving to live in harmony with the outer world, a feature that in itself can promote healthier lifestyle. However, there more matter-of-fact arguments in favor of vegetarianism, and these arguments hinge on the nutritional benefits of a veggie diet.
There is no need to remind that obesity in many developed nations including the US is acquiring threatening dimensions, turning into a national problem. American stick to their traditional diets that have too many calories and too much fat (especially saturated fat), cholesterol, and sodium” (Higgins). These drawbacks of American food habits can be reduced if people choose to reduce their intake of meat or give up eating meat altogether. Plant diets have been found to be healthier by the American Dietetic Association that acknowledged the health value and nutritional adequacy of vegetarian diets. Thus, the Oxford Vegetarian Study seeking to related intake of meat to body mass indexes interviewed 1914 male and 3378 female non-smoker respondents to arrive at the following results. Based on the information on consumption of dietary fiber and animal fats provided in the questionnaire, subjects were classified into meat eaters and non-meat eaters. In all age groups, the body mass index was found to be lower in vegetarians than in meat eaters (Higgins). Thus, vegetarianism can be a viable solution to the problem of obesity that has important repercussions for medical problems and health care budgets.
The above does not mean that vegetarianism is only good for those who have weight problems. Those who are satisfied with their body mass index can find a lot of benefits in consuming vegetarian products and abandoning meat. Few medical professionals would argue that “the high percentage of fat in it is one of the main reasons for heart attacks, high blood pressure” (Lopa Berlin 2004). Thus, for an average American man the risk of dying of a heart attack amounts to 50%, whereas for a vegetarian this risk is only 15%, a fact explained by relative consumption of cholesterol by meat eaters and vegetarians (Vegsource).
The effect of meat consumption upon the origin of cancer has not been studied in detail, but statistics found in different studies indicate that a person can reduce the risk of cancer greatly by reducing intake of meat and related products. Most cancer researchers report that vegetarianism reduces the risk of cancer. Consumption of meat raises the “risk of breast cancer for women who eat meat daily compared to less than once a week” by 3.8 times (Vegsource). Men who are used to daily consumption of meat, eggs and other animal foods the risk of prostate cancer increases by 3.6 times as opposed to those who only occasionally eat these products. Even frequent consumption of eggs or butter leads to greater risk of developing cancer as opposed to those who have totally given up animal products, as breast cancer risk increases by 3.25 times with butter and cheese consumption and 2.8 times for egg eating. These data suggest that even partial reduction in the amount of meat consumed can lead to decreased risk of cancer, a serious argument in favour or rethinking one's attitudes towards vegetarianism.
Some people may argue that meat contains protein and other substances that are absolutely indispensable for their health and help them grow big and strong. Men in particular can be concerned that if they give up meat altogether, this may leave them emaciated and undernourished. Scientists indicate that “the muscle meat of animals for slaughter contains an average of 3-30% fat, 21% protein, 1% mineral salts (e.g. table salt, calcium, phosphoric acid), 0,5% carbohydrates and 70-75% water, and vitamins” with fat, protein and carbohydrates being easily replaceable with plant food (Lopa Berlin 2004). This adds up to the fact that animal fats demonstrate high concentration and risk of overconsuming protein with the excessive intake of meats. Protein, the main aim of many meat eaters, is available from grain, soy beans and many varieties of nuts, and so vegetarians consuming these products supply their bodies with all necessary nutrients. Thus, there should be no fear that a vegetarian diet will deprive a human body of necessary nutrients.
Besides, this discussion does not focus on some abstract concept of meat. Talking of meat that is produced in the US, for instance, one can find many additional arguments in support of vegetarianism. Thus, of all antibiotic medication produced in the US, 55% is fed to animals (Lopa Berlin 2004). This is a serious reason to ponder once again about the quality of the products we consume on a daily basis. From 1960 to 1988, the proportion of staphylococci infections resistant to penicillin rose from 13% to 91% (Vegsource). The potential danger of animals developing infections resistant to currently known antibiotics has led the European Union to prohibit their use, while it is still allowed in the US. An American giving up meat, therefore, shields one's organism from serious dangers.
Thus, vegetarianism can help one to protect one's health and thus is an inalienable feature of a healthy lifestyle. A person choosing a plant-based diet will more easily lose extra weight if any. Vegetarians are at lower risk for a number of serious diseases including cancer, and will not suffer from inadequate controls over meat production. These are strong arguments in favor of a vegetarian diet that can help many people improve the quality of their lifestyle.
Higgins, Kristin. Vegetarianism; the pros and cons of a meatless diet. In: Shlundt, David. Weight Loss in America. Vanderbilt University, March 22, 1998. <http://www.vanderbilt.edu/AnS/psychology/health_psychology/vegpage.html>.
Lopa Berlin. Arguments for vegetarianism. <http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/Lobby/8522/veget_e.html>.
Vegsource. How to Win an Argument With a Meat Eater. <http://www.vegsource.com/how_to_win.htm>.
According to Ballundar et al (2006:139), Vegetarianism can be defined as eating food excluding meat and other animal products except milk. It is a trend of not including meat and other animal products in the diet. The individuals who do not eat meat are call vegetarians and the persons who eat meat are called non-vegetarians. The trend of vegetarianism has roots in the religious philosophy. Most religions are thought to believe in vegetarianism and strictly prohibit non-vegetarian food. As per the religious leaders of Jainism, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc non-vegetarian food involves the innocent and brutal killings of animals and hence this type of food shouldn’t be permitted. On the contrary, some major religions like Christianity, Islam and Judaism argue that God has created human beings and made them in such a way that they can eat both animal and non-animal products (Naik, 2008).
There is a difference of opinion in Medical and Scientific world also. Although most of the doctors and bio-scientists believe that vegetarianism has not any serious disadvantage however some of them say that it leads to malnutrition. The question has always been an issue of conflict and concern within doctors, nutritionists and religious leaders. It is widely believed that vegetarianism has not any major disadvantage. It doesn’t involve any brutality towards animals so it is considered to be the best form of nutrition.
Analysis and Evaluation:
Most of the philosophers, scientists, nutritionists, doctors, etc believe that vegetarianism has not major disadvantages; it is due to the fact that several major advantages are attributed to this form of eating with little disadvantages. These advantages include healthy living, healthy environment and peaceful world (Zaveri, 2008). Following are some of the advantages attributed to vegetarian food habit:
Verma and Pandey (2007:127) say that vegetarian food is rich in fibre. It constitutes the roughage material of the body. According to Richards (eHow Online) roughage and dietary fibre can be used interchangeably and its main sources are fruits, vegetables and grains. It is important to the alimentary canal in following ways:
- It adds bulk to the food.
- It helps in improving digestion and acts as a sort of cleaning agent for the alimentary canal (digestive tube).
Source of Vitamins and Minerals:
According to a report (vegetableexpert.co.uk), it looks like alphabets from vitamin A to zinc, that each of these alphabets is present in vegetables. It indicates that almost all vitamins and minerals are extensively found in the vegetarian diet. Vegetables contain all the three types of vitamins i.e. Fat soluble, Water soluble and B-complex vitamins including minerals like Phosphorus, Magnesium, Calcium, Potassium, Iron, Zinc, etc which are necessary for the healthy functioning of human bio-system. Vegetables are considered the richest sources of almost all vitamins.
Source of Carbohydrates:
Vegetables are also considered a rich source of carbohydrates. According to a report (weightlossforall.com) the source of energy in vegetables is the carbohydrate content present in them. But the calories depend on the cooking method employed to cook them. Vegetables contain fewer calories as compared to non-vegetarian diet (Ballandur et al, 2006:231).
Many ecologists believe that vegetables help to protect our environment by protecting the animals. In many parts of the world, people use to kill animals for food including wildlife. For example, wild pigs, yak, zebra, deer, etc are killed and eaten in many parts of the world. If every person switches to vegetarian food these killings can be avoided and wildlife can be saved. (Gandu et al, 2005:134)
Vegetarian food-eating also helps to maintain a sort of ecological balance in the ecosystem i.e. even the domestic animals form a part of many food chains and food webs (Renold, 2004:31). If they are not killed it will help to help to keep food chains and webs in perfect order.
The Case of Peaceful World:
According to a speech of Zaveri (2008) supported by scientific evidences and facts of life, most of the violence and fuss in the world is due to the meat eating. The humans also imbibe the qualities of animals in them by eating them. He adds that the eating of wild animals will lead to destruction of peace. However, this argument lacks solid scientific evidence.
Protection from Diseases:
During the ancient times, consuming vegetarian food was considered strange and fashionable thing which was believed to have no concerns with health. But now many health organisations including American Dietetic Association have recognised the fact that adequate vegetarian food with a combination of fruits, nuts, grains and green leafy vegetables is nutritionally balanced and has many health benefits in the prevention and even curing of diseases. (vegetarian-nutrition.info)
According to vegetarian-nutrition.info, many scientists believe that the consumption of vegetarian diet with the avoidance of meat and high-fat animal products along with daily exercise leads to the lowering of blood pressure, cholesterol levels, calories, less heart diseases, less obesity, strokes, diabetes, cancer and mortality rate. According to Quinn (2005:234), consumption of salads rich in green leafy vegetables and fruits leads to the reduction of mortality rates.
Citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, etc are rich in vitamin C which helps to give us protection against infections.
Apart from having these advantages there are also some disadvantages of consuming vegetarian food only. These are as follows:
Although vegetarianism leads to healthy living, healthy environment yet it has many disadvantages also. According to a report of SYL Online, vegetarian food contains less proteins, calcium, vitamin B12, iron and zinc. Although vitamin b12 is found in cereals it is not an issue and can be considered as a part of vegetarian diet but meat is the major source of this vitamin so vegetarian diet may lead to deficiency. Vitamin D is also lacking in green leafy vegetables. It is mostly present in the animal products and soymilk. Non-vegetarian food like meat, chicken and fish are proved to contain more quantities of zinc and iron and animal products like yogurt, cheese, curd, etc contain very much amounts of calcium (SYL Online). These nutrients are not much abundant in the vegetarian food items. Vegetarian food is also believed to contain almost negligible amounts of proteins and other essential amino acids (Rao, 2007:237). Phosphorus is also abundant in the meat products with very little amount in the vegetarian food.
In spite of having various benefits, vegetarian food is not a good choice for wrestlers and body builders as they have a primary requirement of proteins and essential amino acids. Vegetarian food can also lead to anaemia because of the lack of sufficient carbohydrates and proteins. Vegetarian food also leads to bowel problems and due to the fact that a little of cholesterol and fat is necessary for the healthy living, it can’t be called a balanced diet (Rao, 2007:278)
It can be concluded that there are disadvantages of having vegetarian food also. But the disadvantages are suppressed by the advantages of having it. If the vegetarian food is taken in adequate amounts, it ensures healthy living. Also the various nutrients lacking in vegetarian food can be got by having other alternatives instead of having non-vegetarian food e.g., Vitamin D can be obtained from sunlight instead of getting it from Cod liver oil. Also, the most nutrients are present in vegetarian food (may be in little quantities like zinc, vitamin B12, etc) but if planned properly it will meet the whole nutritional requirements for healthy living.
Vegetarian food also has more advantages than the disadvantages. A person can have a healthy living irrespective of having non-vegetarian leading to environmental advantages. So, it can be said that vegetarianism has no major disadvantages.
References and Bibliography:
Richard, R. (2005) List of Roughage Foods.eHow Online, Available at: http://www.ehow.com/list_5904563_list-roughage-foods.html Last accessed 20th May, 2010.
Anonymous. A Know Your Vitamins and Minerals.vegetableexpert.co.uk, Available at: http://www.vegetableexpert.co.uk/KnowYourVitaminsAndMinerals.html Last accessed 19th May, 2010.
Renold, T. (2004) Biological Sciences. 9th Ed. Jallandhar: S. Chand Publishing House
Ballundar et al. (2006) Eating Habits. 2nd Ed. New Delhi: Chinar Publishing House.
Gandu et al. (2004) Healthy Dietary Facts of India. Mumbai: Vikas Publishers Limited. P134- 237.
Naik, Z. and Zaveri, R. (2008) Is Non-Vegetarian Food Permitted or Prohibited to Human Beings (Part 1 to 30). youtube.com. Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KKZ6z307NZM Last Accessed: 20th May, 2010.
Anonymous. (2006) Advantages and Disadvantages of Being Vegetarian.buzzle.com, Available at: http://www.buzzle.com/articles/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-being-vegetarian.html Last accessed 21st May, 2010.
Anonymous. Health Benefits of Vegetarian Diets. vegetarian-nutrition.info, Available at: http://www.vegetarian-nutrition.info/updates/vegetarian_diets_health_benefits.php Last accessed 22nd May, 2010.
Gere, M. (2009) Carbohydrates in vegetables.weightlossforall.com, Available at: http://www.weightlossforall.com/carbohydrates-vegetables.htm Last accessed 24th May, 2010.
Rao, S. (2007) Biology in Human Welfare. 4th Ed. Jallandhar. S.Chand Publishers Limited. p278- 237.
Verma, P and Pandey, B. (2007) Biology. 6th Ed. Srinagar: Dal Inc Limited. p127.
Quinn, T. (2005). Nutritional Facts. Kaulalampur: Sikao Publications. p234-235.
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