Food is a major requirement for all humans as it provides nutrients and minerals which are very essential in ensuring that individuals have a good health. Having a good health as an individual indicates that all the physiological processes and functions in their bodies are well maintained.
In addition, food serves to build and repair tissues in the body, supply energy and regulate other bodily processes such as metabolism, thinking, breathing and digestion. It also ensures our longevity because without food, the body would lack energy needed for its continuous functions therefore some processes in the body would start shutting down and in the long run all the processes will seize to function resulting into death.
As mentioned above, food is an essential part of living and has the most important effect on an individual’s health. The major sources of food for man can be classified into two main categories and they include plant sources and animal sources. Both these sources of food are the outcome of agricultural practices developed by man so as to sustain him. The above food categories all play an important role in providing different nutrient requirements for the body and we can therefore say that they supplement each other. For instance, one can take beans in the place of meat to provide proteins.
Plant sources of food mainly consists of seeds which are considered to be very good source of food as they provide nutrients that are essential for growth. Furthermore, vegetables are also plant sources and they mainly include root vegetables such as potatoes, leafy vegetables like spinach and kales and stem vegetables such as asparagus. Animal sources can be either direct or indirect. Direct sources include meat from cattle whereas indirect sources include products from animals such as eggs, milk and honey. Whether direct or indirect animal source or plant source, the foods serve the main purpose of providing nutrients, supplying energy, regulating bodily processes and repairing of tissues (Mayo Clinic).
When it comes to food, people have different takes on food and such gives rise to the two main groups of people; the vegetarian and the non-vegetarian. The vegetarian defines that person who does not consume any red meat products but follows a strict plant based diet. The vegetarians are also classified as there are those who do not consume any meat products whereas there are those who consume white meat products such as fish and chicken. Vegetarianism can be as a result of ethical issues, personal choice, cultural practices and even medical reasons. Some advantages of being a vegetarian is that some of their foods can be consumed raw therefore preventing the loss of some nutrients while cooking, it has less fat than non-vegetarian foods and they are easily digested.
On the other hand are the non-vegetarians who eat both plant and animal foods. The benefits of a non-vegetarian are that their diet is rich in proteins, calcium and other nutrients that cannot be found in plant sources such as the vitamin B12. Incidences of high blood pressure, heart conditions, obesity is common among non-vegetarians whereas most vegetarians suffer from conditions caused by lack of proteins in their diets and are therefore recommended to include soya beans, lentils and groundnuts as these provide sufficient proteins.
The issue of vegetarianism and non-vegetarianism has been a very heated topic as each side tries its best to justify its advantages and why people should become either a vegetarian or non-vegetarian. The issue is mainly advocated by vegetarians as they try to discourage people from taking animal foods especially meat by giving reasons why meat, red meat in particular is harmful to our health.
In this research paper, the main focus is to find out and discuss why eating vegetables as pushed for by vegetarians is also as harmful as eating meat and also to show the importance of eating meat as it greatly contributes to our health.
Meat and Vegetable
Meat is a source of food that is obtained from animals flesh and it mainly consists of the skeletal muscles and edible tissues as organs; kidney, liver and the intestines. Meat products can be obtained from cattle, pigs, goats, sheep, poultry and fish. Unlike most vegetables meat cannot be consumed raw. There are two categories of meat; the red meat and white meat. Red meat is meat that is obtained from cattle, pigs, goat and sheep whereas white meat is meat from fish and poultry. It has great nutritional value and it mainly supplies the body with adequate proteins which are needed for cell growth and repair of tissues. Vegetarians therefore do not consume mainly red meat whereas non-vegetarians consume both the red and white meats.
Vegetables are mainly made up of edible plant parts such as the stem, leaf or the root. Unlike meat, most vegetables can be consumed raw whereas others need to be cooked so as to be edible. Spinach, kales, lettuces, asparagus, lentils, cauliflower, cassavas and cabbages among others are classified as vegetables. They should be consumed and be a part of every diet as they are rich in vitamins A, K and B6, minerals such as zinc, magnesium, and carbohydrates and have phytochemicals which have antibacterial, antioxidant and antifungal properties and these are important in the functioning of the body. Such vegetables make up the diet of vegetarians.
It has been argued for quite a long time that red meat is harmful to our health in the long run and several reasons have been advanced to explain why it is so. Vegetarians have come together to campaign for the ban in eating of red meat in most parts of the world especially the Europe and the America. Some have gone to the extent of publishing books showing how consumption of meat is harmful for instance Howard .F. Lyman in his book Mad Cowboy where he says that we should not eat meat rather eat vegetables.
In this paper, it discusses about the usefulness and the health benefits that are obtained by eating meat and also looks at the harmfulness that is caused by consuming vegetables.
Benefits of consuming meat
To begin with, meat is rich in a variety of important nutrients that are required by the human body for its metabolism, providing energy and also keeping one healthy. Some of the nutrients supplied by meat include proteins, vitamins, fats and minerals. Meat is the largest single source of proteins, which not a single vegetarian food can supply and is needed by the body in large amounts as they are very essential in the building and repair of tissues and antibodies that help the body fight against infection (Thambi). It also provides minerals such as iron; which is very essential in the synthesis of hemoglobin which transports oxygen in the body, zinc which assists in formation of body tissues and increases metabolism and selenium which helps in the breakdown of fats in the body (Medical Daily).
In addition, they provide important vitamins such as vitamin A, B and D. Vitamin A helps to provide good vision and maintaining a healthy skin, vitamin B maintains the central nervous and enhances good mental health and vitamin D which helps in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus ensuring healthy bones and teeth. The fats from meat are rich in linolenic and palmiotellic acid which prevents the body from harmful viruses, cancer and also helps in brain development (Toldra, 65).
The phosphorus present in meat is easily absorbed than that in cereals and legumes and therefore meat is recommended as it is a good source of phosphorus. It is also good to eat meat as it has a good taste though this does not have direct nutritional value. It is said that the flavanoids that give meat its taste contain some chemicals that can act as antioxidants which are important in preventing destruction of cells (Mayo Clinic).
Organic meat is also good for consumption as it is free from antibiotics, added hormones and other drugs as the animals providing the meat are reared naturally and not allowed to eat genetically modified foods rather organic feeds (Fox, 66). This therefore ensures that the meat obtained has only natural properties and are good for consumption as they are healthy. Such has led to the increase in consumption of organic meat to the extent that some vegetarians are now changing to eating red meat. It is therefore important to eat meat as it can be seen that it provides nutrients that vegetables cannot provide or lack.
Why consuming vegetables is harmful
Vegetables are also good foods and they play a role in ensuring the human body remains healthy by providing nutrients. Though good for consumption, vegetables can be very harmful indeed. Firstly, vegetables lack greatly in proteins which are very essential in the human body to ensure good health as they help in the repair of tissues and their growth. For people who their diet is only vegetables like total vegetarians tend to have complications arising from the lack of proteins in their bodies (Mitra). Also, taking too much of vegetables result in an excess of fibers in the body which causes problems. Some of the problems caused include constipation resulting from too much fiber in the digestive tract causing the intestine not to properly function, diarrhea as excess fiber in the digestive tract increases the speed with which food moves in the digestive tract (Allen).
Most of the vegetables that are consumed contain chemicals which are picked up from fertilizers used in farming such as pesticides and herbicides. Also, organic vegetables may pick up some pathogens from the animal waste product that is used as fertilizer. Some of these chemicals and pathogens get retained in the plant tissues and are consumed by humans and in the long run can cause diseases such as cancer (Nelson, 30). Studies show that DDT used as a pesticide was retained in plant tissues and its consumption caused cancer. Furthermore, most vegetables are not closely monitored as they come from different regions therefore they carry a risk of infection to consumers as most vegetables are consumed raw. Infections such as diarrhea, cholera and amoeba can be contracted from vegetables if not well cooked or washed and also through cross contamination of vegetables (Allen).
Most vegetables have high acid content and if consistently consumed, it will cause heartburns or acid reflux and in the long-term it can lead to cancer of the esophagus. Finally, vegetables that contain large quantities of beta-carotene such as sweet potatoes, and carrots if largely consumed will result in your skin having an orange or yellow shade.
Both plant and animal sources of food are very vital in the development and maintenance of bodily processes and therefore it is advisable to consume them. Though they all have harmful effects if not moderately consumed, we should not try to discourage people from enjoying their preferences of foods rather educate them on their benefits and harm and how to moderately consume them. From the research, we can see that meat is not all harmful as some people may argue and that vegetables also have effects in the long run.