Here at The Institute for the Psychology of Eating we do NOT endorse or promote any particular diet or nutritional lifestyle. We do highly encourage that each person openly explores the wide variety of nutritional approaches and dietary strategies that are available to them. We see nutrition as an ever changing journey. We believe that a healthy relationship with food and a well functioning metabolism is possible when we can each be open to what works best for ourselves, and others. We believe there’s a nugget of wisdom to be found in just about any diet that’s been designed with care in mind for people and planet.
The history of vegetarianism is a long and distinguished one. Some of the most famous thinkers in our world have set aside meat for the sake of compassion, clarity of thinking, health and longevity, spirituality, and the environment, for starters. It’s pretty decent company: Albert Einstein, George Bernard Shaw, Pythagoras, Gandhi, Leonardo di Vinci, Voltaire, Johnny Appleseed, Leo Tolstoy, Franz Kafka and Paul McCartney, just to name a few.
Over the last century in our country, the reasons for abstaining have become focused around the reality of our industrialized system of food production, the cruelty that ensues therein, and the detriment to the eco-balance on a large scale. Isn’t it time we considered the bigger picture?
Farm subsidies and the demand for quick and cheap access to some of the most nutrient rich options in our food chain have led to a monstrous increase in intensive “animal farming,” also know as CAFOs: Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. In the name of efficiency and the all-mighty dollar, the mechanisms at work to raise these animals relies heavily on steroids, hormones, GMO-feed along with toxic animal by-products, poor treatment, and abysmal standards of living.
While our food standards decrease, so do the health of the animals, and consequently, the health of consumers and our communities. As people start to realize the hazards and requirements to partake in such foods and products, grade “A” or otherwise, it’s no wonder that a vegetarian lifestyle becomes more logical and deeply appealing. True, these aren’t the only sources of meat available, but they’re definitely the most common, and for those wishing to avoid participating in such industries, and desire to avoid ingesting antibiotics, hormones, steroids and other chemicals.
Not only do vegetarians help decrease the demand of these commercially raised meats across the globe, but also they improve their own health in the process. If you’re considering to go vegetarian, here are five reasons to get started sooner rather than later.
1. Cleaner Nutrition
Going vegetarian is an education. So many of us get into a rut with our food choices and we may not be getting enough variety to help us feel (and fuel) our very best. By choosing to separate yourself from the Industrial food chain, you are reducing the amount of chemicals, drugs and foreign hormones, and overall toxins in your body that currently circulate heavily in our food supply. You also cut down on the possibility of contracting pathogenic microorganisms and parasites that are sure to ruin your dining experience, and possibly your week. When choosing to forgo eating animals, it’s nice to note the natural increased need for vegetables, including the bitter ones, fruits, nuts, seeds, lipids, and grains – but be sure you’re not exchanging one toxin for another.
While there are levels of commitment within a vegetarian lifestyle, traditional vegetarians often include eggs and dairy, which are important sources of fat-soluble vitamins. But be sure to apply the same careful forethought into choosing any animal products, even when they’re not meat. Studies are beginning to corroborate that full fat organic dairy is much more health giving than it’s alternatives (low-fat, skim, treated with hormones, etc.).
Be aware of the change in nutritional requirements you need, the role of pesticides in your foods, or what else might hamper our amazing biology from functioning at its nutritional peak. Maybe you’re experimenting with the three levels of diet and this is where you’ve been brought to. Pay attention to how your body works and thrives!
2. Feeling Lighter
While, in truth, everyone can benefit from more plant foods, rich in nutrients, antioxidants, vitamins and fiber, consider this a great invitation to explore the incredible abundance of nutritious and nourishing foods that are available to us. It also gives you an opportunity to truly look into what foods make you feel best and bring the most peace, comfort, satiation and overall well being. Many vegetarians report that once their body makes the switch, they experience a feeling of lightness, better digestion, better sleep, and a sensation of calmness and quiet in the body. Feelings of anger, fear, and anxiety seem to come to the surface to be dealt with and dissolved. But, of course, as with all big changes, don’t be in a hurry for everything to magically feel better. It may take time for you to notice a shift (or it may not). Just be willing to be with it all. Part of feeling lighter is letting go of the expectations we have about what we eat and what it means. Our relationship with food is always a faithful teacher.
3. Money savings
If you have a family to feed, the skyrocketing food costs over the past five years are admittedly hard to swallow, and lead so many to the price-tag on convenience foods. The secret foundation for building healthful and nourishing vegetarian meals can be found in the bulk section of your local health food store. Beans and grains have always been inexpensive nutritional powerhouses! Let’s be honest: everyone can benefit from saving a couple bucks here and there. If you’re purchasing grass-fed meats these days, chances are you’re shelling out $5.99 to $9.99 a pound for ground. So one of the benefits to expect is the cost of meat to be absent from your grocery bill. In other words, in addition to being kind on your billfold, vegetarianism is hardly a restrictive diet. Filling up on fresh produce, organic and local (if possible), and alternative grains, pulses, nuts and seeds, whole fat organic dairy, pastured/ organic eggs, and cold pressed oils, is a great way to get more nutritional bang for your buck.
4. Compassionate Empowerment
Every time you choose to eat your fruits and veggies, you’re choosing not to participate in directly taking a life. One of the most powerful reasons to choose a vegetarian lifestyle is because it feels right in your heart. You’re choosing compassion, and ethos; you may just find greater satisfaction in your eating choices because you know you’re making a positive change in this world. There are many ancient spiritual cultures that endorse vegetarianism because of the principle known as AHIMSA, which means: “to do no harm”. It doesn’t matter if you’re Buddhist, Hindu, Jainist, or Orthodox Christian, there is a long tradition of abstention from meat for spiritual tradition and other compassionate reasons. Finding purpose on every plate is powerful and will de-stress your heart, while deliciously filling your belly.
5. Living a Long Life
What happens when you combine a diet rich in whole foods with ethics, satisfaction, fulfillment and a steady dose of purpose driven meals? Pleasure and harmony! These are two key ingredients when seeking Longevity. According to many studies, vegetarians live longer due to their various health-conscious lifestyle factors and inclusion of whole, plant-centric foods. Many of the vegetarians in the studies were classified as educated, happily married, active in exercise, non-smokers and drank less than their meat-eating counterparts. So seeking a healthy life goes beyond what’s on the plate, which is really like step one. And yet, each of these factors contributed to a decrease in daily stress. When looking at a balanced vegetarian lifestyle as a whole, it’s easy to see how harmony, pleasure, purpose, and wellness leads to a longer lifespan.
Most importantly, this is a wonderful lifestyle for anyone that wants to experiment with listening to the their Mind and Body wisdom in a positive, open way. Your food choices can benefit more than just your body; they can benefit your soul, heart and most importantly, the places you you call home.
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