I understand the indignation that many vegetarians feel about the thought of eating beef. Unlike city-dwellers and suburbanites, I see cows up close just about every single day. I live in the rural swamp and farmland that lies between Tallahassee and Monticello Florida, and the half-mile-long grass path that I drive on to get to my property from the main road cuts through a pair of pastures horses to the right, cows to the left.

So every time I have to leave my house, one of those common venture being the 40-minute drive down the highway to the grocery store (an hour and a half both ways), I see about a dozen cows, maybe two dozen, meandering about their pasture. They are separated from me by only a barbed wire fence little more than waist high. Sometimes they hang their heads over the top of the fence where it sags so they can munch on the more plush foliage available in my grass path. What I’m saying is that these cows a close, very close.

These cows are adorable. They aren’t the intimidating longhorn kind that you could imagine goring some tragically overconfident tourist in Spain. No, my neighboring cows are straight-up cute, covered in somewhat shaggy brown hair with Beatles-style mops on top of their heads. Whoever I go for a jog, the cows will stop what they are doing, the hungry ones look up from the grazing, and watch me pass. These are easy-going creatures, not bothered by the small white birds that perch on their back to snack on the bugs.

Over the years I’ve developed an affection for these bumbling bovine giants, and it does make me sad to know that every cow I see in that pasture will have its life end in the same gory way: slaughtered and shipped off to be split into more manageable pieces.

And yet, when I make that trip to the grocery store, I often pick up some ground beef for hamburgers. Does that make me a sociopath? Probably a little bit, sure. There is a dark corner somewhere in the folds of my brain that allows me to operate without empathy, eating the flesh of those harmless and charming beasts I see regularly on my everyday commute.

To my credit, I mostly eat Certified Humane beef, which is more expensive and only available at upscale health food stores like Whole Foods and can’t be found at closer and cheaper venues like Publix, Winn Dixie, or Piggly Wiggly (and certainly not at the chain’s knockoff counterpart., the Hogly Wogly). The Certified Humane designation goes beyond vague and often misleading claims of “Free Range” and “Pasture Raised”. It guarantees that my meat comes from animals that had the same quality of life that they would have had in they were in the wild. So I’m going to give myself some points for that.

But I also must admit, sometimes I do stop by McDonald’s for a quick cheeseburger. In fact, I usually eat two in one sitting (those patties are almost as thin as the wires that keep the next door cows off my grass). I do sometimes feel pangs of guilt when I bite into a McDonald’s cheeseburger, or even one of those homemade hamburgers that I made sure came from cows that were not abused… but apparently, it is not quite enough guilt to actually make me stop doing so.

I have a lot of respect from vegetarians and vegans, regardless of whether their actions are influenced by the morals I myself lack or instead by health concerns. While I agree with their principles, I just don’t have the strength necessary to resist delicious, delicious beef.

So, if you are an occasional McDonald’s patron like me, maybe you don’t know what exactly the nuanced differences between vegetarians and vegans. And what’s the deal with the latest fad, the raw diet? This guide will review those lifestyle and highlight the benefits of each one.

Vegetarianism

More and more people are cutting meat out of their diets. My intro focused on beef in the form of both homemade and McDonald’s burgers, but vegetarianism also involves abstaining from chicken, seafood, and all other animals. There are a lot of reasons to do so, the one we already mentioned being supporting animal rights and not wanting to eat the result of killing a sentient being.

Also, there is the more selfish reason of practicing vegetarianism for the many health benefits it offers. There’s nothing wrong with self-preservation, but you have got to admit it’s a little less noble than saving little fury things.

Those health benefits are due to a vegetarian diet being both low in fat and high in fiber. Those two attributes make vegetarians much less likely than meat-eaters to suffer from heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and cancer (especially rectal, ovarian, and breast cancer).

It’s not all sunshine, though. If you are not careful about the nutrients you are including in your diet, vegetarianism can make you vulnerable to vitamin B-12, vitamin D, calcium, and zinc deficiencies. But this risk can easily be eliminated if you study up on which veggies can provide you with these nutrients, or you can take artificial supplements.

there are some spin-offs of vegetarianism that make exceptions to the no-flesh rule for certain animals. Pescatarians will eat fish, but no other meat. Those are usually people who are more health-oriented vegetarians than moral-oriented, as many of the moral ones consider pescatarians to not be actual vegetarians. The official Vegetarian Society, which was established in 1800s Britain to support the vegetarian movement, does not consider pescatarians as actual vegetarians. So there is some controversy there.

Veganism

For some people, vegetarianism just isn’t enough. As we previously discussed, a lot of people are vegetarians for moral reason, not wanting to support an industry that not only practices but profits from the mass murder of animals.

Veganism takes this practice one step further, avoiding any products that were the result of people taking advantage of animals, even if they aren’t cutting them up. That means cheese, eggs, and milk, the products of cows and chickens are not off the table.

There are also health reasons to avoid those dairy products. Vegetarianism will provide you with a diet that is low in fat and high in fiber. That’s true… but only if you don’t sublimate your meat consumption with additional dairy consumption, which could possibly add a lot of fat and also cholesterol to your diet. Being a vegan eliminates those possible benefit destroying effects.

Raw Diet

There is an option even more extreme that veganism: the raw diet. It is pretty simple: you don’t eat anything that’s cooked. So you will be consuming a lot of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and other stuff that won’t make you sick when you don’t cook it.

there are many benefits associated with practicing a raw diet. These include having more energy, clearer skin, better digestion, weight loss, and a lower risk of heart disease. It is also believed by many raw food advocates (although it is less proven than those previously-mentioned benefits) that this diet will result in less headaches, fewer complications from allergies, a better immune system, improved memory, and fewer symptoms for those who suffer from arthritis and diabetes.

By Adam Ritchie

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