The Benefits of Eating a Vegetarian Diet in Australia
Australians have had a long and torrid love affair with meat. Summer barbecues and Sunday night lamb roasts are so ingrained in the nation’s psyche that to many a meat-free diet is simply inconceivable.
Australians currently eat more meat per person than anyone else in the world. With over 90kgs of meat devoured per person last year, we now out-eat the notoriously meat hungry population of the US. 2015 was the first time that we’ve held the title since 1982, and while our meat preferences have changed over the last three decades (tending away from lamb and beef, and towards more chicken and pork), our overall appetite for animal products has continued an unabated upward curve.
While many will be raising their arms in triumph, the fact is that this isn’t an award that we should be particularly proud of.
While meat is a noted source of protein and a variety of other nutrients, an over-reliance can have negative health and environmental effects. Vegetarianism, on the other hand, can offer a far more balanced diet, and can also be a more sustainable long-term dietary choice. For these reasons and more there is a growing trend amongst Australians to ditch meat entirely, and to opt for a vegetarian diet.
There are a variety of ways a vegetarian diet can benefit Australians. Here are just a few.
Lessen your Carbon Footprint
With Australia being one of the worst polluters on the planet, many Australians are asking themselves what they can personally do to slow the march of climate change. The methane produced by cows is a greenhouse gas that is 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, and cows make a lot of it. This makes cows as major a polluter as cars when it comes to greenhouse gases.
How do you reduce the amount of cows? You reduce the demand for them. Cutting beef out of your diet has a very real and direct effect on the environment. You’ll also find that vegetables are far friendlier on the hip pocket than a cut of sirloin steak.
Improve your Health
With an over-reliance on meat comes a slew of related health conditions. Many of the victims of Australia’s leading cause of death – coronary heart disease – could have been spared if they’d lessened their meat intake. Along with a lower risk of heart disease, there are a huge amount of other health benefits that come from switching to a vegetarian diet. You can expect healthier cholesterol levels, a lower risk of diabetes, and even a lower incidence of cancer. All of this amounts to a healthier, happier, and hopefully longer life.
There is also evidence that vegetarianism makes for better skin, hair and nails, reduces body odour and bad breath, eases the symptoms of PMS, puts you in a better mood, and contributes to a better sex life. By going vego, you could be enjoying a healthier and more beautiful body, and a sharpened mind.
Fight Against Animal Cruelty
For many vegetarians, their choice is purely a conscientious one. Those with a love for animals can directly affect the meat industry by reducing their own demand for meat, which, when done en masse, will reduce the supply.
The farming of animals has been a way of life for humans for millennia, but with a more enlightened population comes a healthy pressure to do things in a more ethical and sustainable way. Vegetarians have long been leading the campaign for better conditions for farmed animals, with the rise of free range eggs and RSPCA approved products showing the fruits of their labour.
The ethically conscious products available these days reflects the change in expectations. As far as many conscientious vegetarians are concerned, though, there is still a lot of work to be done.
No matter what your motivation, vegetarianism is a smart choice. It promotes health, saves you money, reduces your environmental impact and is ethically sound. The everyday, 90kg-of-meat-per-year Australian could learn a lot from our vegetarians, and hopefully those lessons are taken sooner rather than later.