It seems like every day more and more people are moving towards a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle for health or environmental reasons. In fact, while watching the news the other day, they said that in 2012, people who listed themselves on dating sites as being vegan, were much less likely to be contacted. Whereas, in 2017, it was actually a very beneficial trait on dating websites, and those people were more likely to go on more dates.
Whatever the reasoning behind that shift, it is clear. More and more people are becoming conscious about the food they are buying and eating. The health benefits to limiting your animal proteins are numerous, and leaning towards a more plant-based lifestyle will only benefit your health in the long run. But some people aren’t ready to give up their steaks, cheese, and chicken, and that’s okay. Instead, simply choosing to lessen your intake leads to the following outcomes:
Your Stomach Will Thank You
Animal products are heavy in saturated fats, and when those fats are processed through digestion, excess will be stored in your gut as visceral fat. Those fats don’t just sit there harmlessly either. They can release fatty acids that impair your body’s ability to break down insulin. They can also cause your body to secrete cortisol and other stress hormones that double your chance of having a stroke or heart attack. Visceral fat presses on your organs and can mess with their ability to function correctly. When you add visceral fat to your body, your heart has to work harder to pump blood, your arteries line with plaque, and thin-walled vessels can burst open in the form of an aneurysm.
While diets like keto and paelo often promote animal products and consuming saturated fats in order for short term results, the longevity of these diets is relatively untested. While eating high amounts of protein will lead to lean muscle mass and a desirable physique in the short term, Harvard Medical has deemed it an unhealthy way to eat in the long run.
Your Body Will Thank You
There is a protein in animal products called casein that is potentially harmful to your health. When one consumes a high intake of animal proteins in their diet (over 20% of daily calories), they are more likely to develop tumor growth when exposed to a carcinogen. People with low consumption of animal proteins in turn are much less likely to develop tumor growth in response to a carcinogen. The good news here is that if those with the high protein intake switch to a plant-based diet, they can expect tumor growth to stop and even reverse.
Animal products are also highly correlated to colorectal cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, and can cause major flare-ups in Crohns and Ulcerative Colitis. Overall, limiting your intake can really help keep your body from developing these debilitating diseases.
Your Planet Will Thank You
Perhaps the biggest reward from becoming a semi-veggie is the fact that changing your eating habits can benefit everyone on the planet. Much of the meat that is available in grocery stores is factory farmed, where animals are kept in deplorable conditions, treated miserably, and have never seen the light of day. Most Americans are completely out of touch with where their food comes from, and I personally believe that if you choose to eat animal products you should educate yourself on where it is coming from.
In 1900, the average American at 120 pounds of meat annually, or 5oz a day. Today, the average American eats 220 pounds of meat annually, or 9.5oz a day. That’s nearly double! Because of this increase in demand, our country has turned much of its farmland into ranching land. Instead of producing a variety of healthy fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, we have turned to raising cattle, pigs, and chickens. But why is this bad? Because it takes ten times the fossil fuels to produce one calorie of animal product than that of a plant product. 20% of the world’s rainforest have been cleared (the size of California) and 80% of that has been used for livestock purposes. Livestock is the number one producer of methane in the world, leading to increased green house gasses and promoting global warming. And finally, the world’s cattle eat enough grain annually to feed 8.7 billion people. If we re-directed that grain, we could solve world hunger.
Now, I’m not saying that everyone should suddenly switch to being a vegetarian or vegan. It’s not for everyone. But what I am saying is that everyone should know where their food comes from, what it takes to produce it, and what it can to do their body. The more informed the consumer, the better they can make decisions when it comes to their nutrition and health. By choosing to limit our intake of animal proteins, even just going back to what the numbers were in 1900, we can make a world of difference in our bodies and in the world.