From an early age in life, I never found any culinary appeal in the consumption of red meat, which is essentially: beef from cows and other bred livestock, select portions of pork from pigs, veal from calves, and venison from deer. This meat is different from chicken, turkey, other poultry, and fish that also find home in the meat food group, based on certain process and nutrients found within the select cuts.
Don’t ask me why I never took to red meat, because I don’t have any idea why. I just never ate it growing up, even though my dad passed summers grilling them, my mom would continuously add meat to her marinara, and sloppy joe was a regular meal for them. Meanwhile, I didn’t have my first cheeseburger until I was seventeen. And, even then, I took two bites and didn’t enjoy it. Thus, I continue not to understand what all the hype is about over hamburgers and beef jerky and venison (common during hunting season among some of my friends).
However, despite this disinclination, I still enjoyed consuming the cows’ and pigs’ feathered and scaled friends. That is until I starting losing my appetite for it and took an interest in becoming vegetarian.
Growing up, people would always ask me if I was one, since I didn’t eat red meat. And, I found myself explaining how I was a partial vegetarian (it’s a real thing). Yet, it never occurred to me to look into vegetarianism until I met my mentor, who is a vegetarian in the process of becoming a vegan, this past semester. While talking about how I really advocated for all-natural, I also confessed to her that I thought I was eating too much meat.
Turns out I was right: I was eating too much meat, making it hard for my body to digest it, leaving me feeling lethargic, unenergetic, and bloated. I did not feel good. Vegetarian diets, it turns out, supposedly: helped with digestion, kept you slimmer, improved energy and mood, and could even be cost effective (seeing as most produce is on the lower end of the consumer spectrum). I ended up discovering all these health benefits online and decided to test them out. For the last week of my semester at university, I went vegetarian. And, it was easier than I thought.
“A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food…” – Leo Tolstoy
Also, while talking to my mentor, she gave me some information about the animal advocacy that she believes in and the environmental benefits that come with being a vegetarian. Already being an advocate for only putting mostly all-natural foods into my body, I was shocked to learn about all the preservatives, antibiotics, and potential chemicals that go into meat. Not only in the processing and packaging of it, which makes it sustainable for shipment to grocery stores and time in the cooling cases, but also in the food of the animals, which make them grow unnaturally fast and large. Plus, meat eaters are more likely to develop diseases and be susceptible to illnesses than those who practice a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. Thinking about the potential chemicals and health deterrents going into the meat that I was consuming, made me sick to my stomach, and still does.
“It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living, by its purely physical effect on the human temperament, would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind.” ― Albert Einstein
That’s why, after completing my trial week as a vegetarian, I decided to stick with it and become a full-fledge vegetarian. Not only because of the animals, but also because all the health benefits I researched proved to be true. I noticed that, after eating, I experienced less discomfort with my digestion, my digestion actually improved! So did my energy levels improve; I felt lighter and fresher. It also led me to try new foods and experiment with new recipes for dinners and dishes that my family and I could share.
Now, I love lentils, tofu (marinated), veggie burgers, quinoa, barley, beets, peppers, kale, chickpeas, and all kinds of spices that I never had the courage to try before. I don’t feel restricted at all by not eating meat because there are so many substitutes for it, and there’s no end to the amount of recipes that I can make with vegetables.
But, the greatest thing about being a vegetarian, for me at least, is that I feel more like myself: happy and healthy.