You’ve probably heard in recent years that a vegetarian diet is a much healthier way to feed yourself and that consuming excessive amounts of meat—especially red meat—is quite bad for your heart, your blood vessels, and overall health. From an ethical point of view, you’ve probably heard that eating meat makes you responsible for all the animal cruelty and killing that takes place daily. It’s also possible that you’ve heard about many celebrities who follow a vegetarian diet, with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie being prime examples, which probably makes you think that vegetarianism is cool.
As with most things in life, however, the truth is somewhere in the middle, and vegetarianism is no exception. However, we won’t be examining the pros and cons of being a vegetarian or vegan with this list but instead will be highlighting 25 Surprising Facts About Vegetarianism You Might Not Know that will inform and enlighten you about a lifestyle that has been around for thousands of years despite becoming “trendy” only recently.
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Vegetarianism is based in ancient Indian and Greek philosophy. In India, vegetarianism originates in the philosophy of ahimsa, or nonviolence, toward animals and other living creatures. For the Greeks, to be a vegetarian had ritual and medical purposes.
One of the first and most famous vegetarians was the Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras (best known for the Pythagorean theorem), who lived during the sixth century BCE. The term “Pythagorean diet” was commonly used for a plant-based diet until the term “vegetarian” was coined in the nineteenth century.
For one to understand better what vegetarianism is all about, one has to understand that there are several types of vegetarians. The strictest type are called vegans. Vegans avoid not only meat but also all products that come from animals.
The word vegan is derived from vegetarian. It was first used in 1944 when Elsie Shrigley and Donald Watson thought that being vegetarian included too many animal by-products and did not encompass a completely plant-based diet.
People become vegetarians for a number of reasons, including health, political, environmental, cultural, aesthetic, and even economic reasons. However, the most frequent reason is based on ethical objections to animal cruelty.
Scientific studies have repeatedly shown that a vegetarian diet increases the body’s metabolism, helping the body to burn fat and calories up to sixteen percent faster than the body of someone who eats meat.
The first Renaissance figure to advocate vegetarianism was Leonardo da Vinci. Actually, he was a hard-core vegan who openly argued with the strict local religious authorities of his time, saying that humans do not have a God-given right to eat animals.
A 2008 study by Time approximates the number of U.S. vegetarians at 7.3 million adults or 3.2 percent of the population. Of these, only 0.5 percent, or one million, are vegans.
The French philosopher Voltaire is known for being a major historical figure in the cause of vegetarianism (though we don’t know if he was a vegetarian). He used the antiquity of Hinduism to attack the Bible’s claims of dominance and acknowledged that the Hindus’ treatment of animals represented a “shaming alternative to the viciousness of European imperialists.”
The China Study is a book that was based on a twenty-year study that compared the mortality rates of meat eaters and vegetarians. According to the book, citizens of countries who ate more meat were more likely to have higher death rates from “Western diseases,” while those of countries who ate more plant food were healthier.
To eat or not to eat meat has been debated throughout the history of the Christian faith. Many theologians have claimed a vegetarian diet is the most compatible with Christian values such as mercy and compassion. Jesus is believed to have been a pescatarian.
A pescatarian is a vegetarian who eats fish. The term first originated in 1993 and is a blend of the Italian word for fish, pesce, and the word vegetarian.
Unfortunately for vegetarians, vitamin B12 is one of the few nutrients that comes only from animal sources. Research has shown that a vitamin B12 deficiency may be tied to weakening bones.
Benjamin Franklin was one of the first and most famous American vegetarians, and he was the one who introduced tofu to the country in 1770. Unfortunately for the vegetarian community, he later became a meat eater again.
In case you’re as confused as we are by the many subcategories of vegetarianism let us break down a few more for you: an ovo-vegetarian will eat eggs but no other dairy products. A lacto-vegetarian will eat dairy products but not eggs. An ovo-lacto vegetarian diet includes both eggs and dairy products.
Contrary to popular belief, many studies have shown that vegetarians have only slightly lower protein intake than those who eat meat. The same studies confirm that vegetarian diets provide enough protein if they include a variety of plant sources.
A British study showed that vegetarian men are seen as wimps and less macho than those who eat meat, even in the eyes of vegetarian women. Dr. Steven Heine, of the University of British Columbia, told Appetite Journal that meat and men have always gone hand in hand.
If you like eating burgers, love bacon with your eggs, and are just looking for a reason to reject vegetarianism, we probably have good news for you: Adolf Hitler is said to have been one of the most dedicated vegetarians ever.
Actually, Hitler strongly believed that vegetarianism could be key to Germany’s military success. He claimed that Caesar’s soldiers lived entirely on vegetables, and the Vikings wouldn’t have been able to undertake their expeditions if they depended on a diet that depended on meat.
British researchers have found that children’s IQ predicts their likelihood of becoming vegetarians as young adults, lowering their risk for cardiovascular disease in the process. The higher the IQ, the more likely the child will become a vegetarian.
Have you ever heard the term “fruitarian”? No? Well we hadn’t either until now. A fruitarian is someone who eats only fruit, nuts, seeds, and other plant material that can be harvested without killing the plant.
Love fruit? Check out 25 Sweet Facts About Fruits That You Never Knew.