Every year a great number of people make a conscious decision to transit from omnivore to vegetarian lifestyle. Their motivation for making the transition ranges from extreme dissatisfaction with killing and eating animals to beliefs that meat is an unhealthy product that is detrimental to their health. The relationship between the vegetarian diet and person’s health- conscious lifestyle has been established.
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For this reason, a transition to a vegetarian lifestyle may be considered an indicator of the individual’s awareness of the general principles of the main behavioral nutrition principles. Appropriate measures need to be imposed for raising the public awareness concerning the benefits of vegetarianism and providing people with an opportunity to make a conscious decision between omnivore and vegetarian lifestyles.
Though the direct relationship between the vegetarian dietary and the vegetarians’ lower prevalence of chronic diseases and lower BMI is questionable, the link between the transition to vegetarianism and other healthy lifestyle behaviors is obvious. Bedford & Barr (2005) noted that “other lifestyle behaviors [besides the vegetarian dietary] commonly observed in health conscious individuals may be responsible for the observed beneficial health effects” (Diets and selected lifestyle practices).
The individual’s long-term vegetarian dietary cannot be an occasional decision, contradicting the rest of the life views and habits. Thus, excluding meat products from one’s dietary is not the only measure a person would impose, taking care of one’s health. These would include physical activity, refuse from harmful habits, such as smoking or alcohol drinking, and analysis of constituents before choosing a product.
Bedford & Barr (2005) concluded that “Vegetarians were more likely than non-vegetarians to consider various health conditions and food/nutrition concerns when choosing foods” (Diets and selected lifestyle practices). A decision to make a transition to the vegetarian diet and following experience of sorting the products is related to the person’s conscious healthy nutrition behavior.
At the same time, being a social phenomenon, vegetarianism cannot be limited to the health issues. Making a transition from omnivore to vegetarian lifestyle, besides the impact on the person’s health, people consider the public opinion and the community’s reaction on their decision. Lea, E. & Worsley, A. (2000) “even when meat is believed to be unhealthy, dietary change may not occur unless social and other issues are overcome” (p. 43).
In that regard, according to the cognitive dissonance theory, people might even alter their opinions for the purpose of justifying their meat-eating or vegetarian behavior. While the question concerning the impact of adequate meat intake on the individual’s health remains doubtful, most people have got certain beliefs and biases concerning the issue.
Lea, E. & Worsley, A. (2000) pointed at peace, contentment, animal welfare and environmental benefits of vegetarianism besides its positive impact on health and included these components into their questionnaire aimed at researching the public opinion concerning the impacts of transition to a vegetarian dietary.
It appeared to be that the answers of the participants of the survey varied not only in the relation to their vegetarian or omnivore lifestyle but their gender, age, income and other demographic characteristics as well. Lea, E. & Worsley, A. (2000) concluded that “for non-vegetarians it was social concerns about vegetarianism and health benefits that were most important, while for vegetarians it was red meat appreciation and health benefits of vegetarianism that were important” (p. 44).
It means that the negative beliefs concerning the healthiness of meat products are widely spread among both vegetarians and non-vegetarians. However, this misconception that it I the meat that causes the chronic diseases should be overcome. For the purpose of raising the public awareness of the positive consequences of the vegetarian lifestyle, the broader context of issues related to meet need to be taken into consideration.
Thus, according to the results of the survey conducted by Lea & Worsley (2000), the current focus is on meat as the cause of various chronic diseases. Overcoming this prejudice, the emphasis should be shifted on the perceived benefits of vegetarianism and advantages of the plant-based diets, considering the environmental and animal welfare issues at the same time. The question of origin of the belief about detrimental impact of meat on human health is rather controversial.
It might be generated on the basis of the perceived benefits of vegetarianism or, on the contrary, result in raising popularity of vegetarian dietaries. Identifying the factors that are important for generating people’s beliefs about meat would be helpful for correcting their distorted views.
Considering the broader context of the vegetarian issues and enhancing the people’s nutrition knowledge would provide them with an opportunity to make a conscious transition from omnivore to vegetarian lifestyle, realizing all its benefits for an individual in particular and the society in general.
Providing accurate information concerning the benefits of vegetarianism and the related issues is important for improving the people’s nutrition culture and transiting to healthier lifestyle. Overcoming the misconception about meat as an unhealthy product, people would not need to alter their opinions concerning meat products for justifying their dietaries.
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Considering the animal welfare and environmental issue for solving the problem would shift the emphasis from the issue of the harmful impact of meat-eating on human health to the received benefits of vegetarianism.
Beford J. & Barr S. (2005). Diets and selected lifestyle practices of self-defined adult vegetarians from a population-based sample suggest they are more ‘health conscious.’ International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 2:4. Available from: www.ijbnpa.org/content/2/1/4.
Lea, E. & Worsley, A. (2000). The Cognitive contexts of beliefs about the healthiness of meat. Public Health Nutrition, 5 (1), 37-45.