One aspect of my life that I am very proud of is my diet.

During the seventh grade, I decided to try something new in an effort to have a healthy lifestyle and clean conscience. At the time, I was learning all about improving diets and becoming aware of the food content being put into my body. I started exercising more, but I wanted to do something else to enhance the new lifestyle I was trying out.

Soon enough, I discovered pescetarianism. Essentially, pescatarians are like vegetarians, but they still eat seafood. So, any pork, beef or chicken is off the table, but shrimp, fish and crab are all still options. This seemed like a pretty doable option since I grew up eating an abundant amount of seafood. While my dad was a hunter and meat seemed to be in almost every food option, I thought it would be worth it to at least give it a try.

Further into my research, I started discovering more and more reasons why people decide to have plant-based or animal product-free diets. After hearing about it in health class and doing my own personal reading, I found lots of information about cruelty within factory farms. Besides the treatment of animals, the variable of what exactly goes into our meats caught my attention.

At the time, I was unaware of the hormones and stimulants that these animals are routinely injected with. It seems as though many people do not know about these chemicals in the farming industries. Many animals are given these growth hormones so that they will grow faster and larger than normal. If they give the animal chemicals to grow faster, they will also be able to receive the products from them at a quicker rate. In the case of cattle, the hormones both amplify the production of milk and meat from the body. Yet, at what cost for us?

The bovine growth hormone that is commonly given to dairy cows is still present in the milk and dairy products by the time they are on our tables. This hormone has been connected with cancer and multiple other diseases. In many cases, these farms are not kept up to extremely cleanly standards. Contamination and overpopulation play a role in the sanitation of the food products as well.

Besides chemicals and possible bacteria, it has been proven that vegetarians have lower risks for a mass amount of medical conditions including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes, and even cancer.

However, even if we rule out all the benefits vegetarianism, veganism, pescetarianism, or anything in between has on animals and the human body, we are still left with plenty of benefits these diets provide for our environment. One aspect of food production that I had not really considered before was the amount of resources that goes into our food before it is ready to eat. I read a study that talked about the amount of water that was used to produce different foods: one gallon for an orange, 10 gallons for a pound of chicken, 60 gallons for wheat, and 150 for a hamburger. Because of meat production, the environment faces a lot of harsh effects — soil degradation, water pollution and even global warming.

Global warming is probably one of the more commonly talked about aspects of the beef industry. Most people are aware that the production of methane from livestock occupies a large portion of our planet’s greenhouse gases. With fewer meat-eating individuals, there will be less demand for livestock and thus, a lesser amount of greenhouse gases being released.

Now this was a lot of information to take in at the time, and if you do not know much about this subject, it was probably a lot for you to absorb too. As a 13-year-old, I spent a lot of time finding alternatives at dinner when meat was the main course, looking for new options at restaurants and drive-thrus, and explaining to my friends why I was not eating lunch at school anymore.

While I knew it would be a challenge at first, I thought it would be rewarding and I figured it had a lot of benefits. Believe it or not, I adjusted very well and it did not take long before my cravings of meat were completely eliminated. Recently, one of my friends decided to give pescetarianism a try and, while meat had been a staple for every meal beforehand, she has kept up the diet for three weeks now.

These lifestyles are definitely not for everyone, but they do provide a lot of rewards. Almost five years later, I am still a pescatarian and besides all the benefits it has for the world around us, I am most grateful for the positive effects it has had on my body. So, if you have ever wanted to try one of these, at least to see what it is like, this is your sign encouraging you to do so.

Sierra Voglewede is a senior at Grand Island Senior High.

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