The average American eats over 200 pounds of meat every single year. What’s more, we “process” about 15% of the world’s annual total food animals despite only having about 5% of the world’s population. This amounts to 10 billion creatures per year. If you’re a die-hard meat-eater, these kind of statistics may sway your stance. If you’re concerned about your health and the health of the planet, you may be ready to cut down your own consumption of animal products.
There are several benefits to going vegetarian. And whether you do it for your health, the planet, or the animals, you’ll reap all of these benefits and then some. Here are just 5 beneficial aspects of going meat-free.
- 1. Longevity – Several studies have linked meat-free living with longer life. One of those, from Harvard Medical School indicates cutting out red meat could prolong your life by up to 20%. That study concluded that each serving of red meat increased your risk of death by 13%.
- 2. Cardiovascular health – While the link between saturated fats and heart disease has been debunked, there is no doubt that red meat can increase your risk of cardiovascular problems. The Cleveland Clinic suggests the problem could be that carnitine in meat mixing with gut bacteria could produce something known as Trimethylamine-N-oxide, which could accelerate hardening of the arteries. Regardless of the method, two or more daily servings of red meat per day could increase your risk of heart disease by 30%.
- 3. Help the environment – The production of meat can have some heavy negative effects on our planet. Factory farms alone are said to produce 100 times more waste than every single person in the United States combined. The amount of waste produced by these factories is in such mass quantities that it is virtually impossible to clean up properly. Much of this waste is dumped into the water supply, drastically increasing overall water pollution as well as contributing to the pollution found in drinking water. Clearing land for production has also served to decimate the world’s rain forests.
- 4. Save some money – “High quality” meats, or those that are produced humanely and deliver the least health damage (and some health benefits) can be expensive – far more expensive than even organic and locally grown produce. If you’re on a budget and don’t want to subject yourself to conventional meat, reducing or eliminating meat consumption entirely could help you save money.
- 5. Weight maintenance – Obesity is a global problem; it’s an American problem; and it might be a personal problem. Vegetarianism can help that. One study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the consumption of about 250 grams of red meat, processed meat, or poultry each day can lead to a five pound weight gain over the course of five years (dismal, I know). But in addition to red meat containing high amounts of fat, meat in general is harder to digest – which leads to weight gain.
There are people who are die-hard meat-eaters and there are those who are not. But regardless of where you fall on the meat spectrum, even reducing your consumption could provide significant benefits.