What we eat is a conditioned habit. Most people eat what their parents ate. And most people were raised thinking that what their parents ate was good for them.

I know for me, the first 27 years of my life went by eating what I was brought up eating, and though I thought it was mostly healthy, after I went vegetarian, I realized a whole new level of health and well-being. Not only that, but my body lost a few pounds, I never had to count calories again, and I felt more vibrant, lighter, and more energetic than ever before.

There are numerous reasons and countless studies strongly supporting consumption of a vegetarian diet.

For starters, let’s talk about what is IN the meats you are putting into your body…

Meat contains about 14 times more pesticides than plant foods, and dairy products more than 5-1/2 times. Chicken feed is routinely laced with hormones, antibiotics, and other drugs to allow agribusiness the efficiency of massive flocks under intensive confinement. Today’s cow is fed high levels of hormones to produce two to three times more milk than normal. These hormones and antibiotics make their way into the people consuming this meat and dairy products, which can contribute to hormonal imbalances and antibiotic resistance. Do you want any of these substances in your body? In your child’s body?

The consumption of animal products causes the pH of your body to become more acidic. Having a more acidic environment for cells to grow in can lend to a whole host of health conditions as well. It is better to favour more alkaline foods, such as green leafy veggies, broccoli, and so on. I strongly recommend learning about how the pH of your body is altered by various foods, and how to change this balance for the better in your body.

A vegetarian diet significantly reduces the incidence of a wide variety of medical conditions, including arthritis, various types of cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, gout, osteoporosis, ulcerative colitis, gallstones, diabetes, high cholesterol, kidney stones, and many more.

Health aside, being vegetarian is actually one of the most effective actions you can take to ease the strain on our planet’s limited resources, reduce pollution on Earth, and help the environment in countless ways. According to a 2006 United Nations initiative, the livestock industry is one of the largest contributors to environmental degradation worldwide, and modern practices of raising animals for food contributes “on a massive scale” to deforestation, air and water pollution, loss of topsoil, climate change, and the overuse of resources such as water and oil, and a loss of biodiversity. The initiative concluded that “the livestock sector emerges as one of the top 2 or 3 most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.” It is estimated that the meat industry contributes about 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition, by adopting a vegetarian diet, you will be leading a more compassionate lifestyle, without contributing to animal suffering, cruelty and the inhumane slaughter that is currently going on largely unnoticed in our society.

Most people I talk to about this initially say something like : “Well, it sounds great, but where will I get my protein from?” and “Won’t I be hungry all the time just eating vegetables?” and “I know it would be better for me, but isn’t it hard?”

The average North American consumes about 3 times as much protein as they need. Animal protein overworks the kidneys and also contributes to many of the medical conditions listed above. Sources of vegetable protein include lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, legumes, soy milk, nuts, tofu, brown rice, and many other plant foods.

Being vegetarian does not mean just eating salads all the time. You can enjoy wonderful meals that will satisfy you for long enough. Initially when people make this change in their diet, it can take some getting used to, trying new recipes and perhaps snacking more. That being said, yes, meat keeps you full longer, because animal protein is harder for the body to digest and the transit time through the human digestive tract is longer with meat. Not necessarily a good thing.

It’s easy to become a vegetarian. Simply do not buy meat when you go to the grocery store. If you do not buy it, you will not consume it. You will learn how to cook and serve nutritious and delightful vegetarian fare. There are many cookbooks available at health food stores, bookstores, or you can even just google recipes online.

An added perk is that replacing meat, chicken, and fish with vegetables and fruits can save you an estimated $3000 a year.

Try it out for even just 3-4 weeks, make a commitment to yourself for this time period and see if you notice any changes. Be sure to exercise regularly and drink plenty of water as well to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Being vegetarian is hands down one of the best choices you can make for yourself and your family.

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