The Stockholm researchers say that we’d all need to reduce our meat consumption to no more than 5 percent of total calories in order to sustain water resources. Cutting meat consumption by 60 percent may sound extreme, but even cutting back by 15 percent—about one vegetarian day per week—can do wonders for your health and for the rest of the world.
Keep reading for a few of those benefits to convince you it’s worth it:
One of the most compelling reasons to go vegetarian at least one day a week is you. Meat-heavy diets have been tied to a host of health complications, ranging from blindness to lung disease to stroke. One of the most comprehensive studies to date, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, tracked more than 37,000 adults and found that simply eating one vegetarian meal per day could lower the risk of dying from cancer or heart disease by as much as 20 percent.
As the Stockholm International Water Institute points out, it’s not always the animals but what they eat that causes major global crises. And when it comes to animal feed, pesticide- and fertilizer-heavy corn reigns supreme, making up 90 percent of what pigs, chickens, and cows eat. Growing that corn requires heavy doses of nitrogen-based fertilizers, which farmers often overuse. The excess gets washed into the Mississippi River and then dumped into the Gulf of Mexico, creating large algae blooms that kill animals. Public health officials often need to close beaches when nitrogen pollution is high—and that’s a real buzz kill for any vacationer.
One really unpleasant side effect of eating too much meat? Urinary tract infections (UTIs). A study from McGill University in Montreal found that grocery-store chicken is often contaminated with a form of E. coli bacteria known to cause UTIs, and what’s worse is that the bacteria is resistant to many of the antibiotics used to treat the condition. The bacteria can live on in your gut and cause problems as much as 6 months after eating the contaminated meat. That doesn’t happen when you eat kale!
If you think 79-cent-per-pound chicken is a good deal, consider this. Last year, reporters from The New York Times conducted their own test to see how cheaply a family of four could eat. They paid $28 for dinner for four at McDonald’s, but were able to pay $14 for a dinner of chicken, potatoes, and a salad and just $9 for a mostly vegetarian dinner of pinto beans, rice, bacon, and various seasonings. And that $9 meal also had the fewest calories of the three. In most areas, you can buy a pound of dried beans—a 1-cup serving of cooked beans contains almost as much protein as a 3-ounce serving of beef—for less than $3, and it will yield 12 servings of beans, cooked.