There are a number of nutritional and environmental reasons for abstaining from meat. Bad cholesterol can only be found in meat and animal products. The vegetarian diet, contrary to some myths, does provide all of the nutrients needed for the human body.
Nutrition and environment, in regard to the vegetarian debate
In first world countries only about 3 to 5% are vegetarian. But every person can make a difference. In a typical first world country, the average person eats about 50 animals per year. This is from cows, pigs, chicken, fish, and others. One person becoming a vegetarian saves all 50 of those highly sentient beings per year. Over a 20 year period that is a savings of 1,000 animals from being sent to slaughter, from grain being fed to animals purposely bred for slaughter, and prevents or slows the pace of the depletion of species in the oceans. This also saves the depletion of rain forests and other deforestation to the environment for the purpose of growing grain for animals to be slaughtered. The deforestation not only hurts the environment to make more room for land to grow grain for slaughtered animals, but this also depletes the supplies of grains and other foods that could have been produced and fed to humans in famine areas. Every small step and every person can and does make a difference. See also: Star fish story & video
One of the biggest myths about the vegetarian diet is that vegetarians do not get enough protein. Objective studies have repeatedly shown that diets high in fruits, vegetables, and grains are the most healthy and have the lowest rates of heart disease and cancer.
Studies have shown that both vegetarians and non-vegetarians consume too much protein. On average, vegetarians consume about twice as much protein per day as they should. Non-vegetarians consume about three times as much protein as they should. Green leafy vegetables, legumes such as lentils and soybeans are loaded with protein and iron.
Cholesterol is a leading culprit to heart disease and is found in meat and animal products, such as eggs and cheese. There is no bad cholesterol in any vegan whole (un-processed) foods.
Another leading cause of heart disease and also many cancers is trans fat foods. These are saturated fats which clog the arteries and do severe damage to our health. Trans fats include hydrogenated oils which are in some packaged foods, including vegetarian ones. But there is no need to add hydrogenated oils to vegetarian foods and many countries have banned its use. Meat and animal products naturally have trans fats in them. While we could voluntarily remove trans fats from vegan (pronounced vee-gun for vegetarian without animal products) foods, it is impossible to not have trans fats in meat and animal products, because they are naturally there.
Omega 3 oils found in fish have been shown to be quite healthy for the heart. But you do not need to eat fish to receive this beneficial nutrient. Flax seeds, hazel-nuts, and walnuts have omega 3 oils as well and are just as healthy. Flax seeds and their products can be found in cereals and other foods found at natural foods stores. Although fish contains this valuable nutrient, the negatives of fish consumption outweigh the benefits. Fish still have fatty tissue, even though it is less than the fat found in red meat, it can still be dangerous. Fish also contains mercury which has been shown to be very damaging to people’s health. For the environment, fish consumption has been much too high. The oceans are being depleted of fish to a point where many species have gone extinct.
Some people incorrectly believe that eating fish is not meat-eating. Fish are not mammals, like us, but they are members of the Animal Kingdom. Mammals like cats, dogs, pigs, and humans produce milk for their babies. Other animals such as birds, reptiles and fish, do not produce milk. But this does not make them any less of an animal. The Animal Kingdom includes mammals, reptiles, birds, fish, and insects. Fish are animals and their flesh is meat.
The vegetarian diet provides all the nutrients a human needs. The only exception is the vegan who does not eat any animal products could be missing vitamin B-12. This vitamin can be found in miso (fermented soy paste) and shitake mushrooms. The lacto-ovo vegetarian has no problem as animal products contain high amounts of B-12.
The cause of nearly all diseases, especially in developed countries, is not the lack of any nutrients, but rather the excess of too much food and fat. We do not hear on the news of anyone dying from lack of protein or lack of iron or lack of amino acids. The real problem is too much food and fat. People in developed countries eat too much fat and protein. The excess iron and protein leads to the health problems listed above.
An example is vitamin B-12, discussed above. We only need very miniscule amounts of this vitamin and it is stored in the body. The amount of vitamin B-12 that we need is a very puny one milligram for every 667 days (almost two years)! Yet, some meat eaters continue to argue that vegetarians are not getting enough nutrients such as protein and vitamin B-12. If you watch the news and live in a developed country such as the U.S., ask yourself how many times do you hear of people dying of scurvy or protein deficiency and other nutrient deficiencies? It just does not happen. The problem in developed countries’ nutrition is excess protein and excess fat which has made heart disease the number one killer in men and women.
- Vegetarianism and Buddhism
- Diet of Buddha
- 3 fold rule
- Edicts of Ashoka
- Anguttara Nikaya 3.16
- 8 points of the Lankavatara
- Star fish story & video