Vegetarianism: Meat Eating Versus Nutrition

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Vegetarianism may seem like a popular diet fad, but it has been advocated by many cultures around the world. Restaurants advertising “vegetarian options” on their menu is becoming customary. Vegetarianism is a dietary choice, to abstain from meat, that people adopt for many reasons. There are different degrees of vegetarianism all of which vary in reasons, types, and health outcomes.

Maurer observes many people relate American vegetarianism with those who rebelled mainstream society in the 1960s. However, it started in the 1840s during the health-food movement. He adds, “... Sylvester Graham, William Alcott, and Russell Trail sought to convince its audiences that meat was a source of excessive stimulation (along with alcohol, sex, coffee, tea, and spices), causing disease and illness (Maurer).” These early health reformers built their foundation on establishing a “natural” social order. In the late 1800s, John Harvey Kellogg, creator of cornflakes, recognized this principle in the Seventh Day Adventist Church. These health reformers were mocked and viewed as weak (Maurer). Throughout history, many other famous people lived vegetarian lifestyles: Leonardo da Vinci, Sir Isaac Newton, and Paul McCartney (Dupler). In the twenty-first century, vegetarian diets were viewed as salubrious and supported by the American Dietetic Association (Maurer).

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Vegetarians eschew from eating meat for different reasons: religious, health, and environmental or ethical. Religion is the world’s earliest most known reason to live a vegetarian lifestyle. According to Frey, since the early 2000s, Hinduism makes up the majority of the world’s practicing vegetarians compared to other faiths. Frey further explains, not all Hindus are committed to vegetarianism the same way. While some connect with the doctrine of ahimsa, meaning nonviolent, which prohibits the shedding of animal or human’s blood. Other Hindus believe they will receive suffering and bad karma in their next reincarnation if they kill animals. Another reason an individual may choose vegetarianism is to benefit their health. Vegetarianism is known to be favorable for a healthier lifestyle. Teenagers often embrace vegetarianism as a weight loss method. Frey notes, vegetarians generally have less body fat than those who include meat in their diet. With the increased awareness of following a plant-based diet, decreasing chances of acquiring potentially life-altering diseases, more people are pursuing some form of vegetarianism. Meanwhile, others believe it’s morally wrong and environmentally profligate. He continues to explain, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries scientific methods were used in agriculture to calculate “the cost to the environment of raising animals for meat.” Ethical vegetarians use these calculations to support their argument that more grain goes to feeding animals raising them for meat than feeding humans. Therefore, believing world hunger could be solved if half of the grain was shared among undernourished populations (Frey). In addition to a rise in health concerns of supplements, such as hormones being added into meat production. The exposure of controversial treatment towards farm animals is enough to convince some people to forgo eating meat.

Vegetarians vary individually depending on which animal-based products they allow in their diets. Fundamental vegetarians exclude meat from their regime but allow animal-derived products such as eggs and dairy products. Ovo-vegetarians include eggs in their diet but not milk. Raw food vegetarians integrate rejection of animal-derived foods with raw foodism, meaning foods are uncooked. Vegans exclude any foods or products acquired from an animal, for example, clothing made from leather, wool, or silk. In the United States, products that have a Certified Vegan trademark printed on clothing or cosmetics do not contain animal products, nor have been tested on animals.

Dupler acknowledges vegetarianism is generally healthy and safe. However, vegetarians need to be aware of nutrients that may be insufficient in non-animal diets. These nutrients may include, vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, and iron. He emphasizes the body does not make amino acids but are essential. Therefore, vegetarians need to include complete proteins by combining two incomplete proteins such as rice with beans. Vitamin B12 can be obtained through a supplement, Spirulina, that is made from algae. Dupler adds, “vegetarians do not necessarily have healthier diets.” He encourages vegetarians to be aware of their daily intake of eggs, dairy, and oils, to avoid high cholesterol and saturated fats. A vegetarian lifestyle can be quite beneficial. According to Dupler, vegetarians can outlive those who eat meat for several years. He mentions the FDA recognizes other factors may cause improved health considering vegetarians typically have healthier habits (Dupler).

Vegetarianism is a personal decision that can come with different viewpoints. Whether practicing extreme forms of it or a more standard diet, if well planned, it can provide a healthy and beneficial life.

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