Vegetarian Diets Essay

2918 words - 12 pages

Vegetarian Diets

Modern Western society has placed an emphasis on "healthy living." A well-balanced diet, exercise and healthy lifestyle habits; such as not smoking, moderate alcohol use, and preventive health care, are all very important to physical well-being. In their quest for a longer life and increased happiness, Americans have made great strides towards an healthier lifestyle and, in particular, an improved diet. Many individuals have attempted to lower fat intake and decrease excess calorie consumption. In a growing number of more recent cases this includes following a vegetarian diet. Vegetarianism is on the rise and was officially supported by the American Dietetic Association in 1993:

"It is the position of The American Dietetic Association that vegetarian diets are healthful and nutritionally adequate when appropriately planned."

What is a "Vegetarian Diet?"

There are different types of vegetarian eating patterns, differing in the extent to which they exclude animal products. Vegans or total vegetarians only eat plant foods, which include legumes or dried beans and peas, grains, seeds and nuts. Lactovegetarians eat plant food and include cheese and other dairy products. Ovo-lactovegetarians also include eggs. Semivegetarians are the least exclusive because they do not eat red meat but include chicken, fish, dairy products and eggs with plant foods. This paper will focus primarily on those individuals who include some animal products in their diet. These three types of vegetarians must still plan their diets carefully to include the nutrients needed for survival: such as protein, iron, vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, and zinc.

Why be a "Vegetarian?"

There are a number of reasons why an individual might choose to follow a vegetarian eating pattern. Most importantly, many people believe that there are health benefits associated with the exclusion of animal products from a diet. "The Vegetarian Page" claims that meat is very unhealthy. Cholesterol and fat aside, there seem to be antibiotics, bacteria & parasites, and chemical toxins that humans ingest each time they consume commercial meat products. These ingredients can be very detrimental to physical well-being and can produce problems related to such things as digestion and a lack of cancer fighting agents in the body. Additional beliefs associated with vegetarianism contribute to people's reason for adopting this lifestyle. The belief exists that eating animals is unethical. Animals such as calves, young chickens and pigs, are often raised in terrible conditions in order to produce the choicest pieces of meat. Others have claimed that our ecology suffers as a result of raising cattle and therefore, "our species is being inefficient in its use of resources." Land is being destroyed that can never be regained. In addition, meat is more expensive...

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