Recently, there has been a lot of interest in the subject of a meatless diet--in all its variations. Since a number of special interest groups and celebrities have promoted this approach to eating, this diet choice has seen incarnations of everything from a popular fad to a political cause.
Vegetarians are people who, for whatever reason, do not eat meat, or, in some cases, any animal products. They can be grouped into several categories, based on the type of animal foods, if any, that they include in their diet.
The full spectrum
At one end of the spectrum, you have what are called “vegans,” who do not eat any food derived from animal sources. This group may also be called “strict vegetarians” for obvious reasons.
There are also “lacto-ovo vegetarians,” who eat no meat or fish, but do include eggs and dairy products in their diet, and “lacto-vegetarians,” who do not eat meat, fish or eggs, but do include dairy products.
There are a number of reasons for why vegetarianism.
--Health reasons - There is no question that eating more fruits and vegetables and less meat provides a health benefit. The larger question is whether eliminating all animal products and/or meat is necessary to get these benefits. Nevertheless, most health experts agree that a vegetarian diet based on sound nutrition principles is beneficial to your health. People who don't eat meat tend to have a lower incidence of high blood pressure, heart disease and some cancers. They also may be more likely to avoid obesity and diabetes, which are currently major concerns in healthcare. There is even some evidence that a meatless diet may help prevent osteoporosis as well as help you live longer.
--Religious and cultural reasons - There are millions of vegetarians worldwide that pursue that lifestyle due to their religious beliefs. In this case, either their religion forbids the consumption of meat or animal products, or strongly suggests against its use. Many Hindus and Buddhists, for example, do not eat meat for religious reasons. The Seventh Day Adventists number many lacto-ovo vegetarians among their congregations, due to church teachings against eating meat for health reasons.
--Environmental and philosophical reasons - Since it takes many more resources, such as land, food, energy and labor to produce meat than it does to produce non-meat foods, there are many who embrace a meatless lifestyle for philosophical reasons. They believe that the environment and the ecology of our world would be better off without the mass production of meat for consumption by humans. In addition, one could extend this philosophy to include the issue of world hunger where the resources that are used to produce meat may be better used to help alleviate the starvation that is occurring in many areas of the world.
--Animal rights issues - Sometimes people choose not to eat meat strictly as an issue of animal rights. These people do not want to be responsible for killing animals, even humanely, and therefore, they will not eat meat. They usually will not wear leather or fur either, since these practices also require that the animal be killed.
--Availability of meat - It may be difficult for some of us to imagine, but there are some places where meat is either too expensive or not available in the food supply. In this case, the diet is built around vegetarian foods that are less expensive or more readily available.
--Preference - Finally, some people do not eat meat because they simply don’t like it! If you don’t like asparagus or red beets, no one thinks it at all unusual if you don’t eat them. The same applies to meat; if you don’t like it, don’t eat it—no problem, as long as you replace it with other types of good quality protein.
What you need to remember about why vegetarianism
Regardless of your reasons for eating a vegetarian diet, the most important thing you need to remember is to eat a variety of fresh, whole foods, including legumes, grains, seeds, nuts, fruits and vegetables. Stay away from empty calories, and make everything you eat count towards a nutritionally complete diet.
Be adventurous, adding some new flavors and textures to your meals from the vast array of healthy foods that are available. This will keep your diet interesting and allow you to enjoy your food and stay well.
I hope this helps explain why vegetarianism is popular.
Whatever your diet preference, eat and be healthy with my warmest regards,