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Vegetarianism diet, lifestyle

by Ian Hinkelmann, staff writer

I had an aversion towards meat as a child. It just didn’t seem right for me to slaughter animals and then eat them. Later, in high school, my then friend Sonja and I sometimes went to her grandparents’ farm to help out. I remember Fritz and Frieda, two pigs she liked very much. She fed and stroked them almost every day. A few weeks later, when we were having lunch together in school, she told me that she had Fritz on her bread. I was disgusted. It’s not that I wasn’t aware that people eat real, dead meat, but I was just shocked that she could actually eat her once-loved animal.

Vegetarianism has a long history, and today it is a very common diet. Some people are on a vegetarian diet because their doctors told them to do so, for example, but for many others it is more than just a diet – it is a lifestyle, too.

The broadest definition of a vegetarian is someone who doesn’t eat any meat, fish, and poultry. The strictest form is the vegan who doesn’t consume any animal products at all, including eggs, honey, or dairy products and won’t even buy leather products.

There are several different reasons for someone to become a vegetarian. A major one might be health. In today’s world it seems that everybody is talking about saturated fats, cholesterol, carbohydrates, and so on. It is in the newspaper, on TV, on the radio – everywhere. The statistics say that over 50 percent of all Americans are overweight, and since we all know that meats contain a lot of fat and are harder to digest than vegetables, some people choose the vegetarian diet to prevent illnesses or to lose weight.

Another reason to become a vegetarian might be environmental concerns. Did you know that the U.S. meat industry, for example, consumes over half of all water used for all purposes in the United States? Or that consumer use up approximately 55 square feet of tropical rainforest by just eating one quarter-pound hamburger?

Others are vegetarians because they are aware that by eating animal flesh we also consume the many antibiotics, hormones, and pesticides that were fed to the animals before they were slaughtered for food. These people avoid eating meat in order to keep their own bodies both clean and healthy. Vegetarians in general either buy their foods at regular supermarkets or health food stores. They eat a wide range of foods, such as vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, fruits, legumes, and dairy products. They also have access to a variety of meat substitutes such as vegetarian sausage, “chicken” chunks, and “beef”, all based on soy.

Tofu, a curd made of soy beans, is also a popular vegetarian food. It doesn’t contain a lot of fat and provides a lot of protein.

However, followers of a vegetarian diet have to keep in mind that the right balance of the diet is essential to health. It doesn’t do a vegetarian any good if all he or she eats is lots of oil, in foods like French fries, for example, a lot of sweets, or fatty foods. According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, the four essential food groups for humans are: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes (beans and peas). Vegetarians, like everyone else, must balance these food groups in their diets.

The choice of becoming a vegetarian is a big one with deep-reaching consequences. It profoundly changes one’s lifestyle. It also changes one’s relationship with nature, for one no longer worries about the conditions under which one’s food died.


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