The Argument for a Vegetarian Diet - Part One
by Gary Null, PhD, and Martin Feldman, MD
In recent decades, vegetarianism has shed its image as an offbeat lifestyle choice and attracted many Americans who want to take advantage of the benefits offered by plant-based eating. These people are adopting a vegetarian diet to improve their health, avoid the chemicals used in animal foods, reduce food costs, conserve natural resources, adhere to religious disciplines, and respect animal life. More than 7 million Americans now eat a vegetarian diet for these reasons and others.
Despite these gains, the US remains a leading consumer of meat; and the rationale for vegetarian eating must continue to be made to the American public. A typical US diet – including, for example, eggs and bacon for breakfast, a hamburger and glass of milk for lunch, and a meat dish for dinner – can supply more than 200 grams of protein a day, or about four times the highest recommended intake. These eating habits carry serious consequences for the health of individuals and the ability of countries to feed the greatest number of people from the available food-production resources.
This article will present some of the key arguments in favor of a vegetarian diet, giving health-care providers the information to help their patients (and themselves) make healthful dietary choices.