What if Americans were vegetarians? There are plenty of people who defend meat, even to the point of excluding virtually all foods at the favor of meat. However, the truth is that vegetarians and vegans are at lower risk of heart disease, obesity, cancer, and a number of other major health problems.
Yes, we have been taught and raised to include meat in everything. We even include it in things like stuffing, and for that matter other meat. Take for example bacon wrapped turkey. Frankly, if you want to eat vegetarian or vegan, half the time you have to ask for modifications to virtually everything. There are a growing number of coffee shops that specifically offer quite a few vegan options. One of my favorite coffee shops actually has a mac and cheese dish that has a cashew sauce that is way better than any regular mac and cheese I’ve ever had. Go figure.
Right now, vegetarians make up about 5% of the US population, and according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American is spending nearly $1100 on meat, fish, poultry, etc. In other words, vegetarians and vegans can save a lot of money. Take that 30% out of your grocery bill, and you could start saving for say a vacation!
So what would happen if we all became vegetarian? Would we all be richer, healthier, and happier?
Not exactly. According to Rebecca Solomon, Director of Clinical Nutrition at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City,
A plant based diet is a great idea for almost everyone, but complete elimination leads to other substitutions.
In other words, even if you eliminate meat, you still have to remember to eat healthy. The idea is to replace meat with nuts, tofu, fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods. As you may have noticed though, there are vegetarians who replace it with meat substitutes, fried foods, prepackaged foods, and everything unhealthy they would have eaten anyway, minus meat. They don’t always remember to include the right amount of protein, which can be detrimental, and it takes planning. You can’t just go to any restaurant near you and find what you want. In fact, for some vegetarians, pizza is a big pitfall.
So what about money? We have some serious debt problems in the US, and we can use all the help we can get in that area.
If we were to drop meat altogether, there would actually be a number of jobs lost. According to the USDA Economic Research Services, about 1.5 million people are necessary to produce the food supply for the country, which includes 32% in the meat industry alone. Only 11% are needed to help with fruits and vegetables. That could lead to some serious job loss and people who will subsequently have less money, not more.
Being a vegetarian (and I have been vegan before), I’ve done quite well. I have been healthier, wealthier, and happier on a personal level. When I was vegan, I actually felt incredible. However, obviously it’s not for everybody. Not everybody would take the time to plan their meals, and many would fall back on unhealthy alternatives, not getting necessary protein and calcium for starters. If you are ready though, there’s really nothing wrong with going in a healthier direction.