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Plant-centric and animal-free diets are gaining popularity for a number of reasons and North Americans see Vegan and vegetarian diets most vividly among celebrities in the media. Whether or not these celebrities are intentionally promoting their dietary choices to the public, their place in the spotlight leads many to question the benefits of reducing meat consumption. Eating less meat and dairy has proven to aid health and nutrition levels, because by adopting a plant-based diet, you are putting your focus on nutrient-richfoods rather than the fat content of meat products. Bill Clinton became a vegan after having severe cardiovascular issues and the process led him to losing weight and improved his overall health and well-being. Mike Tyson also saw benefits to a vegan diet after living a drug-heavy lifestyle, which reduced his blood pressure and his breathing difficulties. Some celebrities, like Natalie Portman, have even chosen vegan diets based on concerns about the environment and the effect that animal agriculture has on it.

The fact is that meat production does have an effect on the environment and there are ways people can actively change those effects. The Union of Concerned Scientists has identified meat consumption as the second-largest producer of fossil fuels. A large reason for this is the amount of waste farmed animals produce, which contaminates water supplies, and adds significant amounts of methane gas to the environment. Other challenges to the environment include de-forestation and a depletion of water resources.To date, almost half of the United States has been cleared for farming animals, while it is estimated that in order to produce a pound of meat, 2500 gallons of water will be consumed. For these reasons, it is practical to consider eating less meat, as many already are, by choosing to have at least one meat-free day throughout the week.Incorporating some vegetarian cooking into your weekly regime will help reduce your environmental footprint by focusing on dishes that are rich in vegetables and pulses. The one concern that many have with becoming a vegetarian, Vegan, or just reducing meat consumption, however, is that they may not be able to meet all their protein requirements.

Getting a substantial amount of protein from a plant-based diet is possible, though. Some of the best sources of protein other than meat are beans and pulses, with one cup of lentils giving you 17.9 grams and one cup of navy beans providing you with 15.8 grams.Interesting to note is that one cup of fresh vegetables also grants an apt amount of protein- spinach and corn at 5 grams, peas at 9 grams, and potatoes and sweet potatoes at 4grams. Along with meeting your mandatory nutritional requirements, a vegetable-rich diet, including salads, will be extremely satisfying when bulked up with seeds and nuts that contain protein and fats.

The phrase ‘We are what we eat’ is one that is illuminated everyday. When you eat nutritious, satisfying food, you will feel better than when you eat fast food or processed items. The author, Thich Nhat Hanh, takes this phrase one-step further in their book,‘Anger’, by suggesting that food produced in inhumane ways will make people feel what those animals felt, including anger and frustration, while eating happily raised animals,will make you feel happier too. Even if you don’t want to eat a vegetarian or vegan diet,you can support a positive form of animal agriculture by purchasing organic meat fromsmall-scale farms. Organically raised meat is more expensive, but by default, you will be eating less meat, which will contribute to your overall health and the health of the environment.The documentary film, ‘Cowspiracy’, presents a number of points on how animal agriculture affects the environment and the reasons to eat less meat. While there is substantial debate about what the leading cause of environmental destruction is, this film suggests that farming animals produces more greenhouse gases than car emissions. Some environmentalists went as far to say that all issues with the environment could be erased if people stopped eating meat.

Undoubtedly, the effects of animal farming has resulted in deforestation in North America, but is also responsible for the cutting down of over 136million acres of rainforest, which has resulted in the diminishing of many species. Since the rainforest is perceived as the Earth’s lungs, providing the Earth’s atmosphere with at least a quarter of its oxygen, this is concerning. The way to eliminate the progression of damage to the world includes carpooling, limiting our water usage, and eliminating the use of chemicals and pesticides, but another way to help save the planet would be to eat less meat, or go one step further by taking on a vegetarian or vegan diet.*

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