If your recent visit to Burger King has you wondering why you should swap a steak jump for an impossible slipper, I'm here to dive into the various reasons why people choose to become vegetarian or vegan and what impact these the practices have on our bodies and the planet.
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Health Benefits of Plant-Based Diets
There is no shortage of evidence that eating lots of fruits and vegetables contributes to a healthy body and brain. Indeed, some research suggests that vegans and vegetarians generally have better health markers than omnivores. In fact, many health experts recommend plant-based diets to people who have heart problems, high blood pressure, diabetes and other health conditions.
Health problems regarding animal protein
A major reason why people give up animal products involves health problems about animal protein, especially red meat. For decades, public health officials and health professionals urged consumers to eat less meat, especially beef and pork. They cited health problems such as heart attack, stroke, cancer and more.
However, recent research revealed that people may have had the wrong belief about red meat in all these years, noting that the evidence link between red meat, processed meat and disease was weak at best. Another long-standing belief about red meat – that the saturated fat content clogged the arteries – was also recently interrupted.
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That said, no dietary recommendation is appropriate for every person, so take the evidence and do what you want. If you have bad reactions to animal protein, this is why you should try plant-based meat. And whether real meat or faux meat is healthier, well, that's the question of the decade (and probably the next).
Animal Welfare and Moral Values
This is an important reason for many people in their decision to start and continue a vegan diet. Many vegans strongly believe that all animals, including those who have long been diets throughout the world, have the right to life and freedom. It is certainly a reasonable point of view, and having emotional attachment to animals often contributes to that view.
For example, research on the motives behind eating a vegan diet shows that having more pets early in life (and a greater variety of pets, such as not just cats and dogs) increases the tendency to avoid meat consumption later in life.
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If you're not ready to go full vegan, but want to reduce beef consumption for animal welfare reasons, to replace the typical beef burger with an Impossible Burger or a Beyond Burger the next time you eat out is a good start. Here is a list of places that have Beyond Meat Burger on the menu, and a list of restaurants serving Impossible Burger.
If you ask a vegan why they decided to eat vegan, there is a good chance that they will mention something about the environment. Many people who eat plant-based diets burn to protect the environment, and that's all for good reason – we should all strive to do our part for our earth.
Many consumers and even environmental experts attribute current environmental issues to animal breeding, citing flashy statistics on greenhouse gas emissions, water and agriculture, waste, labor costs and transport involved in animal husbandry.
But animal breeding may not be as bad for the environment as you think. Some research suggests that even if everyone on the planet went vegan, greenhouse gas emissions would only fall by 2.6 percent. The earth would probably be better off if people focused on reducing food waste, minimizing disposable plastic and using public transport, walking or cycling more than using cars.
Belief in human needs
Some people choose to eat a plant-based diet because they do not believe that humans need expensive food sources to survive and thrive. While there is some truth to that statement – you can certainly meet your daily nutritional needs on a vegan or vegetarian diet, even if you exercise a lot, everyone on a plant-based diet should take steps to ensure they consume enough nutrients that come in large seen from animal sources. These include vitamin B12, vitamin D, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, calcium, zinc and iron.
Fortified plant-based foods, such as Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger, offer similar nutritional profiles as real beef. So if you're looking for plant-based alternatives but don't want to risk nutrient deficiencies, try one of these cheat meat burgers.
Some people choose plant-based diets for any reason on this list, and some choose to eat plant-based simply because they do not like animal protein and dairy products or have sensitivity to them – like lactose intolerance.
At the end of the day, you don't really need a reason to choose a plant-based burger over a regular burger – you shouldn't feel obligated to explain your food choices to other people if you don't want to.