Since our inception we’ve been writing articles covering the Meatless Monday craze. Some have asked us why, and we tell them that food trucks and vegetarianism are a great match. It is a program that not only opens the menus for food trucks to entice many more customers in their area, but it also helps a food truck owner help its customers as well as the planet.
Hundreds of studies concur with us and show that vegetarians who eat balanced diets have lower rates of coronary artery disease, hypertension, obesity, and certain cancers.
Today, vegetarians only make up about two percent of the population, but everyday more and more people give up eating red meat or try their first bite of tofu. The main reasons people are turning away from meat are their health and the ecology. So why wouldn’t a food truck modify its menu, even if it is just for one day a week?
Why Food Trucks And Vegetarianism Are A Great Match
Lower rates of disease amongst vegetarians
The first reason food trucks and vegetarianism are a great match is because food trucks can help lower disease rates in their customers. Registered Dietitian Winston Craig says that meat eating costs Americans somewhere between $30-$60 billion per year in medical expenses for hypertension, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, gallstones, obesity, and food-borne illnesses associated with meat. Craig says that a vegetarian diet is associated with lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and less obesity.
In 1997, the World Cancer Research Fund recommended a vegetarian diet for reducing the risk of cancer. Lifelong vegetarians have 24% less heart disease, while vegans have an astounding 57% less. A comprehensive study of a vegetarian religious group, the Seventh Day Adventists, found that they had half the rate of high blood pressure and diabetes, half the rate of colon cancer, and two-thirds the rate of arthritis and prostate cancer as other groups (2001). Furthermore, Cornell University reported that eating less meat did more to reduce osteoporosis than supplementing your diet with calcium.
Do you have to be completely vegetarian to benefit?
In 1999, a meta-analysis of several vegetarian and vegan mortality studies was conducted. The results of these studies were compared together and re-analyzed. The researchers concluded that even reducing meat in your diet had a significant effect on lowering your rate of disease. People who ate meat just once a week had a 20% lower rate of dying from heart disease, and their over-all mortality rate was reduced by 10%.
Those who ate only fish saw as much as a 34% reduction in heart disease death, while their over-all mortality was lowered by 18%. In the same sense, the more you reduce consumption of animal products, the more you appear to benefit. Only 7% of the vegans studied died of cancer (lung, stomach, and colorectal). Alarmingly, 19% of overall deaths in the US are from cancer.
Taking all of this into account, anyone following the Meatless Monday program can help avoid some of these severe and life threatening illnesses by merely cutting back their meat intake one day a week without having to give up their favorite burger from a local food truck.
Vegetarian diets are also good for the planet
Every year, meat eaters contribute to the cattle farming industry. This industry uses farm lands that could be producing human food to make grain for cows. As most people know, cows produce large amounts of environmentally-toxic methane gas. Raising cows also uses precious water resources.
Vegetarianism and the rain forest
What you may not know though is that eating meat also contributes to the destruction of the rain forests. In an effort to make a cheaper Big Mac and Whopper, companies are growing cattle in Central America, where labor and other costs are lower. Eager Central Americans are slashing and burning their native rain forests to make room for the beef industry.
Vegetarianism and carbon dioxide emission
Estimates show that a vegetarian diet saves 1.5 tons of greenhouse gas per person per year. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that producing one calorie of animal protein requires ten times the fossil fuel as producing one calorie of plant protein. Wow! Furthermore, eating a vegan diet reduces more carbon dioxide emissions than driving a hybrid car, according to the New Scientist.
Vegetarianism and water reserves
What’s more disturbing is that every hamburger that originated from a rainforest cow required the destruction of roughly 55 square feet of rain forest. Furthermore, studies show that one pound of beef requires 2,500 gallons of water. The water used to produce one hamburger patty is enough for two-week’s worth of daily showers.
The Bottom Line
Most of the food truck owners we have spoken with over the years have typically been pro-locavore, and attempted to reduce their carbon footprint by using local suppliers for the food they use to prepare their menu items. By adding a vegetarian spin to some of your menu items, they are able to continue to cut down on their carbon usage as most of the vegetables can be found here in the states, or in some parts of the country, right in their local farmers market.