Millions of people internationally follow a vegetarian diet. According to research done by Vegetarian Times, 7.3 million humans follow a meat-free lifestyle.
The Dietetic Association says it expects the number of vegetarians to increase and culture has been a factor in the increase of adapting a vegetarian diet.
Seventeen-year-old Nhi Van shared her story on becoming vegetarian.
Her reasoning wasn’t the love of animals, to lose weight or hide an eating disorder but as a part of her family’s cultural tradition.
“My culture, every July, we honor the dead by not eating meat,” Van said. “I’ve been accustomed to eating very little meat.”
Last summer, at the age of 16, she decided to become a full vegetarian, meaning she doesn’t eat any meat. This decision was based on different factors, her culture being the main reason.
Many other culture influences are impacting people’s diets.
“In Buddhism, every new and full moon, people become vegetarian,” she said. “So, my culture isn’t the only one to do this kind of thing.”
Although her vegetarian diet is based on her cultural traditions the effects of a non-meat lifestyle can be challenging.
After a year of being a vegetarian, Van has experienced health issues and has gone to the hospital more often.
“I have to take iron pills due to my vegetarianism,” Van said when asked how vegetarianism affects her body. “Most of the nutrients I don’t get from eating meat I replace by taking supplements.”
She expresses concerns for those people who start a vegetarian diet at a young age.
“Parents in my culture don’t encourage teens because we are still growing up and our bodies are still developing,” Van said. “But my mother tolerates my decision to be a vegetarian.”
According to Vegetarian Times, there are healthy benefits to vegetarianism, such as the decrease in heart disease, low blood pressure, decreasing risks of getting cancer, a lower chance of diabetes and a lower chance of becoming over weight.
There are good and bad side effects, Van said, committed to her vegetarian diet.
“It’s not uncommon to become a vegetarian in my culture,” Van said. “It’s respected.”