As we in the U.K. find ourselves smack bang in the middle of National Vegetarian Week (May 21-27), the Internet is buzzing with information on why it’s good to “go veg”. Now, people all over the world are beginning to wonder why this vegetarianism thing is such a good idea.
Having started originally in the United Kingdom, the National Vegetarian Week craze has caught on quickly around the world. It first became popular among celebrities and health gurus, and then caught on with well-known chefs and the general public as well. While ten years ago vegetarian diners would have been hard pressed to find a decent meal in many of the world’s most renowned restaurants, today the vegetarian option is the norm, with the majority of the world’s most prestigious restaurants consciously touting a variety of vegetarian alternatives on every menu.
Famous vegetarians and vegans throughout history have included such diverse figures as U.S president Abraham Lincoln, acclaimed poet Allan Ginsberg, soul musician Barry White, and actors Brad Pitt and Alicia Silverstone, just to name a few. This week, chefs around the world, such as Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, a notoriously vegan chef, are giving advice on how to prepare some tasty dishes, including a vegetarian stew with apricots, or how to use quinoa, a grain-like crop grown primarily for its edible seeds, as a protein substitute. While vegetarianism may seem exotic and trendy during National Vegetarian Week, a main goal of the week's publicity is to highlight why "going veg" is good in the long term for both our health and our planet.
Here are just a few of the reasons why National Vegetarian Week is so important:
Vegetarianism has proven long-term health benefits that can improve both your overall health and your appearance. Clinical tests show that vegetarians have lower rates of heart disease and some forms of cancer. Diabetes, acne, and hypertension are also less prevalent in vegetarians. In a world where 1 million Americans die of heart disease every year, these facts are not small potatoes!
Vegetarians are slimmer. The Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California found that overweight people who followed a healthy vegetarian diet lost an average of 24 pounds in the first year and kept the weight off five years later. Vegetarians in general tend to weigh around 15 pounds less than meat eaters, so if you use National Vegetarian Week as a launching pad to start your new diet, the likelihood is you’ll keep the weight off longer and become healthier in the process.
Vegetarianism is good for the environment. For those of us who are concerned about the effects of global warming, going vegetarian may be an effective way to reduce our global footprint. The U.N. Food & Agriculture Organization recently reported that raising animals for food is one of the largest sources of carbon dioxide and the single largest source of both methane and nitrous oxide emissions. This means that “going veg” is one of the most effective ways we can personally fight global warming. It's even better than using energy efficient light bulbs or fuel-efficient cars.
So whether you are just veg curious or seriously considering cutting out meat altogether, National Vegetarian Week is a great time to consider all the options and benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle. It’s a time to put all the facts on the dinner table and reconsider our eating habits and the impact they have on our bodies and on our planet. National Vegetarian Week and its message are worth your attention, even if you do just skip out on a steak dinner for this one week.