By Liz Glass
While it has been a heated topic for what seems like a millenia, vegetarianism is still praised by many. The practice of vegetarianism is beloved by many because of its nutritional benefits and its regards to animal welfare, as well as its environmental impact – or lack thereof. Vegetarianism isn’t a new thing. While it seems to be the case on social media because of influencers trying to sell a “vegan and cruelty-free, organically derived and ethically produced product with 100% recycled products” whatever they come up with, mostly it’s been used as a bait and switch technique to sell their products at outrageous, unattainable prices – putting a price on being environmentally conscious. Because of this, many people believe that becoming vegetarian is impossible due to the exposure of the inane pricing that they see all over the internet on the vegetarian products.
But what if it really isn’t as expensive as people think? Where did the act of vegetarianism even come from? What if you can still enjoy the benefits of being vegetarian without breaking the bank? Perhaps you can, if you do the right research. And perhaps going vegetarian, or even cutting out meat 1-3 times a week, isn’t as hard as it sounds initially. We will be evangelizing vegetarianism.
The history of vegetarians dates all the way back to ancient India. Primarily the Hindus and Jains practiced the act of vegetarianism, circa 9th century BCE. The Jains concept of vegetarianism was based in their religion: violence and consumption of animals is prohibited under any circumstances. Jains were known to be the most strict in terms of this rule. Buddhist vegetarianism is a bit more tricky. On one hand, some say that Buddha and his followers ate
meat that was offered from hosts of their banquet or alms-givers and they had no reason to think that the meat they consumed was a slaughtered animal. The other hand says that the Buddha monks were strict vegetarians and the acceptance of meat was later on, due to the looseness of disciplinary rules. When the surge of Christianity came to light, however, it swiped across the Roman Empire – and with this, the practice of vegetarianism vanished from northern Europe. During the emergence of the Renaissance, though, vegetarianism began to come out of the woodwork, slowly but surely. It was a fast-spreading practice particularly in the 19th and 20th centuries.
We got a brief breakdown about the origins of vegetarianism and where they emerged in the world. So, now we ask – why? Why do it? Well, aside from religious or ascetic purposes, there’s plenty of good reasons why you can transfer to this special diet. For one, vegetarians consume less cholesterol and saturated fats, thus lowering the bad cholesterol within the body. Vegetarians also consume more C and E vitamins on average, as well as magnesium, folic acid, dietary fiber and interesting little fellas called phytochemicals – plant chemicals that are very good for the human body when regularly consumed. Of course, we see the connection that more consumption of vitamins and healthy plant chemicals is associated with longevity and a drastic decrease in the possibility of getting a chronic illness(s). In one of the largest studies observed with 76,000 participants from five different prospective studies, research shows that people who followed a vegetarian diet as opposed to meat consumption in other diets revealed that the risk of developing heart disease dropped by 25%. In another study from EPIC-Oxford, the risk of dying from heart disease if you are vegetarian drops by 19 percent.
Vegetarian diet also reduces the risk of Type-2 Diabetes, according to a study from Seventh Day
Adventists. The risk of developing diabetes was cut in half as opposed to people who were non-vegetarian.
A Noob’s Guide to Different Vegetarians and Shopping Vegetarian
There’s different ways to practice a vegetarian lifestyle, which makes it a little less overwhelming if you have been mulling over the thought of becoming vegetarian. Well, aren’t you in luck! Here’s a short, comprehensive list of the types of vegetarians you can go for if you so choose.
Veganism is a very strict diet. Absolutely no animal products will be consumed when you are vegan, including anything made with cow’s milk or eggs, or anything made with gelatin – considering gelatin is boiled animal carcass…yeah, doesn’t sound very animal-friendly to me. Lacto-ovo vegetarians do not partake in meat-eating of any kind, including fish and poultry. However, they will drink milk and consume eggs on occasion.
Lacto vegetarians do not eat any meat of any kind but partake in consuming dairy products. Ovo vegetarians are exempt from any meat or dairy products, but will eat eggs. Now, for the meat of the discussion (pun intended), how to properly shop for vegetarian foods. Of course, you will always have the name brand, overpriced vegan products that cost $6 for twelve slices of vegan cheese, but most of the time you can steer clear of these products and lean towards saving money if you have a keen eye. Being vegetarian isn’t as hard as it seems – I went vegetarian almost five years ago and haven’t looked back since. I would consider myself a lacto-ovo vegetarian, which is probably the most lax choice of vegetarianism you can go for. I did try veganism, but a special type of dedication is required to make that work – especially if you live with family that does not want to convert to that lifestyle, which is okay. Finding veggie products is pretty easy – off-brand is not your enemy! In fact, most off brand stuff is the same as name brand, just minus the name – which means minus the extra dollars you’re forking out to pay for said name brand product.
For example, tofu. Tofu is vastly cheaper than meat. For about 14 ounces at Walmart you can get most tofu for around $1.74, as compared to $3.77/lb of a normal ground beef roll. Keep in mind, 14 ounces is almost a pound – a mere two ounces away from it being so. Another example: a pound of Azumay tofu is $1.74. A pound of an all-natural and organic ground beef tray is about $5.94. You really can’t beat the pricing when it comes to the plant-based options. I will say upon further research that the deli meats, regardless if they are plant-based or not, are around the same prices for the same amounts, which is around $3 or so for either option. Veggies and fruits bought in bulk are cheaper than meat bought in bulk. A nice, 4.5lb meat tray that is 80 percent lean will set you back $17.30. It’s on average $2.44/lb for apples, about $4 for a 3lb bag of clementines, $2.42 for a 3lb bag of yellow onions, and $2.78 for 12oz of broccoli florets. In total, for all this is $11.64, which is almost $6 cheaper than one single package of meat. Now, I am not saying you can cook a delectable banquet of meals with all of this – but rather showing how cheap veggies and fruits can be when you really look and compare the pricing with meat products. The goal here is really just to show if you have a good eye and decent logic skill to measure out the amount of meat you will be getting for this price and the amount of fruits and veggies you will be getting for that price, the answers lie there: fruits and veggies just seem to be cheaper than meat or meat products. Plant-based prices have dropped due to the sheer amount of breakthroughs that have come through in recent years with the evolution of meatless meat, and the high demand of plant-based products, particularly skyrocketing in 2020 up into the present. More and more people are starting to see that a plant-based diet can be cheaper and healthier. It also seems more fun to participate in – you have to put your cooking skills to the test to see what
meals you can make out of this tofu or tempeh, or whatever weird vegetarian product you find at the store that you’ve never heard of but sounds oddly inviting. All in all, it doesn’t have to be so intimidating if you decide to convert to a more veggie-friendly diet. What’s the harm in eating more veggies? You might as well make it interesting.