Tomorrow, October 1 is World Vegetarian Day and marks the kick off of Vegetarian Awareness Month. The observance was started by the North American Vegetarian Society (NAVS), an non-profit organization that provides a community for and is a source of information on vegetarian lifestyle. So what is a vegetarian exactly? According to NAVS a person may call themselves vegetarian if they abstain from eating all animal flesh including meat, poultry, fish and other sea animals. Then you have an ovo-vegetarian who omits eggs from their diet, a lacto-vegetarian may eat eggs, but not dairy products, and an ovo-lacto vegetarian excludes both eggs and dairy products. A total vegetarian (or vegan) consumes no animal products at all.
There are lots of reasons and benefits to becoming a vegetarian. As far as health is concerned, diets high in animal protein can result in high blood cholesterol, which increases the risk of heart disease. Fruits and vegetables (the main staples of a vegetarian diet) when organically grown especially are full of vitamins and nutrients. From an environmental standpoint the production that goes into the meat industry leaves a pretty big carbon footprint; from the meat processing plants to the deforestation that is a result of the expansion of cattle farms and fields of corn/grain that is specifically grown in order to become livestock feed. And of course there are spiritual, cultural, and religious practices that call for a diet free of meat.
NAVS has worked very hard to create awareness about Vegetarianism in the United States and since there is no rule against it, people sometimes eat vegetarian meals even if they don’t choose to adopt a full-time vegetarian lifestyle. That being said, a change in consumer interest and demand has resulted in the expansion of vegetarian options on restaurant menus, and most ethnic restaurants offer meatless options anyway as a part of their food culture.
To celebrate and promote Vegetarian Awareness, NAVS challenges all non-vegetarians to go veggie for as long as you can (a day, a week, or even the whole month of October) and you may be win a cash prize! And I’m sure they would also like to remind you that by going vegetarian you will already be a winner because you’ll be creating a better world by having a positive impact on your health, the environment and society as a whole. So go vegetarian! Think You Can Do It?