World Vegetarian Day

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In celebration of World Vegetarian Day (1 October), let’s take a look at why this is a good time to cut meat out of your diet.

Why go vegetarian?

Health benefits

There are so many reasons to start cutting meat out of your diet. Firstly, there are many personal health benefits like reduced risk of heart disease, obesity, hypertension, diabetes and even some cancers. On average, vegetarian’s have a lower BMI, are less at risk for high cholesterol and there is also evidence that vegetarians live longer too!

Over and above this, most people who choose to follow a vegetarian diet tend to be more aware of what they eat and make healthier choices.

Environment

Next up comes the environment. By eating a mostly plant-based diet, you are not supporting the massively polluting meat industries and greatly reduce your carbon footprint. The production that goes into 1 kg of lamb emits almost 40 kg of C02 while lentils, a great protein source, emit only 0.9kg of CO2 per kg. Studies have shown that the water needed to produce 1kg of beef can be as much as 13 000 litres, compared to only 1 600 litres for a kg of rice, or 700 litres for a kg of corn. It is also worth keeping in mind though, that if environment is a driving force behind your decision to go vegetarian, you should be aware that cheese, and particularly hard cheeses, have quite a high carbon footprint.

New flavours

Following a vegetarian diet is a great way to discover amazing new flavours and tastes. Many people rely on meat, poultry or fish as the "main ingredient" of all their dishes. When you take them out of the picture, you are forced to become much more creative and experimental in your cooking - and this is a great opportunity.

Ethics

Lastly, when it comes to the ethics of killing animals for food, it's simply no longer necessarily for our survival. While in certain situations, killing an animal for food may be needed for pure survival, there is no longer any justification for killing animals simply because they taste good. We have so much nutritious and healthy food to choose from, and meat, poultry don't need to form a part of our diets any more.

A list of things that you are allowed to eat.

First off, there are two main types of vegetarians: lacto-vegetarians and lacto-ovo vegetarians.

Lacto-vegetarians can eat:

  • Pulses -  these include kidney beans, chickpeas and peas
  • Nuts
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Grains - including rice, cereal, bread, pasta,  
  • Honey
  • Dairy - including milk and cheese
  • If you are a lacto-ovo vegetarian, you can also eat eggs.

A list of things to avoid

Vegetarians eat no meat, poultry or fish. Unfortunately, many people still assume that vegetarians eat fish and are also not aware that certain ingredients are not suitable for vegetarians.

Common items that you may not know contain animal products include:

  • Sweets like jelly and marshmallows.

o    These are usually made using gelatin, which is made from animal bones

  • Certain cheeses such as imported Parmesan.

o    Many cheese makers use animal rennet, which is made up of enzymes taken from the stomach lining of mammals,  in the cheese-making process. 
Thankfully most South African cheese is made using non-animal rennet.

  • Soups.

o    Many vegetable soups are made using chicken, fish or beef stock.

  • Salad dressing.

o    Watch out for salad dressings that include ingredients such as animal fat or anchovies. A common culprit is Caesar salad dressing which is often made with anchovies. If you don’t eat eggs, watch out for mayonnaise as it’s almost always packed with eggs.

  • Worcestershire sauce is also often made with anchovies.
  • Wine and beer.

o    Unfortunately many wines and some beers use animal products in their manufacturing  process. This could includes things like isinglass (fish bladders) and egg albumen. This is not something many people are aware of, but you should be able to contact manufacturers directly to find out whether your wine or beer is vegetarian.

  • Pasta.

o    If you do not eat egg, be aware that many pastas are made using egg.

  • Thai food and Thai curry pastes.

o    These are often made using fish sauce as a base ingredient.

 

About the author: Laura Cooke

I am the editor of the Veggie Buntch vegetarian and vegan website. Through Veggie Buntch, I offer a place for myself and others to share information that will make life easier as a vegan or vegetarian – including restaurant reviews, news and opinion pieces. I also run a monthly Veggie Buntch Supper Club for vegan and vegetarians at top restaurants.

Website: veggie.buntch.net

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