If you hadn't yet heard of the popular campaign called Meatless Monday, you likely discovered it when the USDA made recent headlines for its support and sudden change of heart about it.
After a company spokesperson said that the USDA encourages its employees to observe the campaign to eat vegetarian one day a week for both human and environmental benefits, backlash from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association led to a retraction of the 'unauthorized' statement. The NCBA-who you may remember as one of the plaintiffs that sued Oprah for her anti-beef on-air comment-said the comment was akin to the agency abandoning America's farmers and ranchers. NCBA president, J.D. Alexander, even said the USDA's comment "should be condemned by anyone who believes agriculture is fundamental to sustaining life on this planet."
Read more about vegan food
But, eating vegetables and other plant-based foods are incredibly important to our health, to our planet-and to American farmers. Thinking of giving Meatless Monday a try? Here are 12 reasons you should:
1. Lose weight: Obesity rates in this country are staggering. More than two-thirds of adult Americans are either overweight or obese. Trading in high fat animal foods for healthy plant foods can help you lose weight.
2. Heart health: Fiber, which is only found in plant foods, can reduce damaging inflammation connected with an increased risk of heart disease-the number one killer in the U.S.
3. Better vision: Carotenes are antioxidants found in a number of fruits and vegetables and they're critical for proper eyesight.
4. Look younger: Antioxidants in fruits and vegetables can fight free radical damage that can lead to tired looking and lackluster skin.
5. Reduce food borne illness risks: 13 out of the 19 cases of food borne illnesses listed on the USDA's website for 2012 are directly related to animal products. Contamination in factory farms is extremely common. Decrease your risk by eating more plant-based foods.
6. Boost fertility: A diet rich in plant foods, especially cruciferous vegetables, can improve your fertility and even reduce the risks for certain birth defects.
7. Avoid GMOs: If you eat organic fruits and veggies but still eat conventionally raised animal products, you're also eating the genetically modified ingredients they've been fed.
8. Variety: The fruit and vegetable kingdom is bursting with so many varieties to enjoy. From beans and grains to the many different kinds of fruits and vegetables, you'll have fun experimenting with a new food at every meal.
9. Support local economy: While most of our meat, eggs and dairy come from specific regions of the country, fresh fruits and vegetables grow virtually everywhere. You can support your local farmers by eating more fresh fruits and vegetables.
10. Reduce animal suffering: Whether we like it or not, eating animals means we contribute to a number of practices that cause suffering and harm, especially if we eat conventionally raised animals. Decrease your guilt by going veg.
Read more about vegetarian and vegan diets
11. More food for everyone: Raising animals takes up a lot more land than growing plant foods. With rising food costs and shortages around the globe, the more plant foods we grow means we can feed more people.
12. Support a healthier planet: Factory farming is a global problem. Do your part for a cleaner environment with every meatless meal, Monday or otherwise!
Photo credit: SweetOnVeg