When I was growing up I ate the SAD diet (Standard American Diet) - beef, mashed potatoes and tall glasses of milk. But I never felt well.

I realized I could perform better athletically and feel better with a vegetable and plant-based diet.

People become vegetarians for different reasons. Most people become vegetarian because they love animals. But today, more and more people are choosing a vegetarian lifestyle not just for ethical reasons but also for the health benefits. The ethical, health and environmental reasons for being vegetarian are all connected.

A Vegetarian is someone who does not eat meat, including pork, chicken, beef and fish. And some Vegetarians choose to not eat any animal products such as dairy, eggs and gelatin (from pork or fish).

Many of the foods in the typical American diet are major sources of harmful toxic chemical exposures such as phthalates. Phthalates have been linked to kidney and liver damage in animal studies and labeled a possible carcinogen.

A recent pilot study found that people who followed a vegetarian diet for only five days were able to reduce the level of phthalates and antibiotic levels in their bodies.

Antibiotics are commonly added to feed to manage and prevent diseases in poultry and livestock and promote growth. In recent years there have been growing concerns about the overuse of antibiotics and how this may be affecting human health. Read Animal Factoryby David Kirby

There are many benefits to becoming a vegetarian. Here are few:

  • Vegetarians have a 28 percent lower death rate from heart disease than meat eaters.
  • The obesity rate among vegetarians is only about 6 percent compared to 30 percent of the American population.
  • Women who eat red meat once a day, have a 250 percent increased chance of getting colon cancer compared with women who eat it less than once a month.
  • Because they are not consuming high amounts of saturated fat, vegetarians tend to have lower cholesterol.
  • The saturated fat and cholesterol in beef, pork, dairy foods, poultry, and eggs cause about 63,000 fatal heart attacks each year.
  • More than 60 percent of Americans are overweight, with at least 30 percent considered obese compared with an obesity rate of 6 percent among vegetarians and 2 percent among vegans.
  • As many as 75 percent of women who eat fish more than twice weekly have blood levels of mercury, a known neurotoxin, that are seven times higher than women who didn't eat fish at all.
  • The death rate of breast cancer among American women is 350 percent higher than the rate among Japanese women and nearly 500 percent the rate of Chinese women. (People in both China and Japan consume a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in animal products.)
  • Skin and teeth look better -- glow.
  • Fewer allergies and more energy.

Source: The Essential Green You! by Deirdre Imus

What do you eat? and Why?

Deirdre Imus is the Founder and President of The Deirdre Imus Environmental Center for Pediatric Oncology (r) at Hackensack University Medical Center and Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids with Cancer. Deirdre is the author of four books, including three national bestsellers. She is a frequent speaker on green living and children's health issues, and is a contributor to FoxNewsHealth.com. For more information go to www.dienviro.com