October is Vegetarian Awareness Month! How You Can Celebrate
Almost exactly two years ago, Integrative Nutrition founder Joshua Rosenthal discussed the nonprofit initiative, Meatless Monday right here on our blog. The movement encourages people to pledge to eat meat-free each Monday, the day most Americans begin their week and tend to set intentions for the days ahead.
This Meatless Monday is a special one, as it’s the first Monday of October: Vegetarian Awareness Month. Several organizations including the North American Vegetarian Society are urging people to abstain from meat this month, and are even offering prizes for those who make a pledge.
A vegetarian diet is one of the major dietary theories we examine at IIN, in keeping with the notion that no one diet is right for everyone. At times a major source of controversy, the decision to eat meat is a personal one. Some meat, when consumed in moderate proportions, provides an excellent source of protein and essential vitamins including zinc, iron and B12. There are also serious drawbacks to eating meat, such as the impact on the environment and health risks.
Many people choose to participate in Meatless Monday because it’s an easy way to make a difference, one day at a time. If everyone attempted to cut back on meat each Monday, we might see a major change in the environment, and in our health as a nation.
Here are a few reasons to celebrate Vegetarian Awareness Month:
1. Control your weight
Vegetarian diets, low in saturated fats and processed foods generally consist of whole grains and leafy vegetables, which help maintain a healthy weight. Protein such as lentils, nuts and soy are also common, which are more nutritious than processed or red meats.
2. Prevent disease
Studies show that cutting back on animal protein can lessen your risk of heart disease, cancer, obesity and diabetes. As the leading cause of death in the U.S., cardiovascular disease kills 1 million Americans annually. But according to Joel Fuhrman, MD, author of “Eat to Live” and a speaker at IIN, the mortality rate for cardiovascular disease is lower in vegetarians than in nonvegetarians.
The Vegetarian Times attributes a low-calorie diet of unrefined complex carbohydrates, fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, and soy to the fact that residents of Okinawa, Japan have likely the longest life expectancy of anyone in the world. Visit their website for a complete list of benefits to going meatless from the Vegetarian Times.
4. Preserve the environment
As said by Meatless Monday, “The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that are accelerating climate change worldwide.” Other benefits include reducing fossil fuel dependence and minimizing water usage. Approximately 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water go into a single pound of beef.
Here’s how to celebrate this October:
Incorporate more vegetables into your meals
According to an article Joshua wrote for the Huffington Post, “Vegetables are high in fiber and will make you feel full and satisfied. Beans, peas, lentils, nuts and seeds are also a great meat alternative. They are high in protein, iron and magnesium and contain little to no saturated fat.”
Opt for healthy meat options
If you choose to eat meat during the rest of the week, try to stick to small quantities of high-quality organic meat. Also consider the type of meat. High intakes of red or processed meat are frequently linked to many health-related diseases and food-borne illnesses, so chicken, fish, and duck are healthier options.
Try new recipes
There are loads of resources for vegetarians, and a seemingly limitless amount of recipes to test! We have a great collection on our website that you can narrow down by categories such as vegetables, grains or beans. The Meatless Monday site has its own recipe menu, featuring how-to videos. You definitely don’t want to miss the extensive Vegetarian Times recipe collection. If all this meatless talk is new to you, refer to expert Joy Bauer’s database, “Should I Be Eating…?” to discover the health benefits of foods you’re not familiar with.
Remember, no one diet works for everyone, and choosing to eat meat is up to you, and you only. But if you’re feeling inspired, or you’re just looking for a new challenge, give Meatless Monday a try this month. Who knows, maybe you’ll still be skipping the steak come November!