By Dana Jean Costantino
Over the last twenty years we all, for the most part, have become more aware of our environment and our health. So often these two elements tie together. Many in our society are now thinking about how and what they eat because it not only helps them to live longer and thrive more successfully, but also reveals how what we eat has an impact on our environment.
Many people have chosen to adopt vegetarian, vegan, or pescatarian diets, not only for the health benefits. but because of their love of nature and animals as well as a desire to be part of a movement to reduce factory farming. Those that still eat meat often look at where that meat is coming from and adopt practices which support local farmers and non-factory styles of production.
Factory farming is a system of rearing livestock that uses intensive methods. Poultry, pigs, or cattle are confined indoors under strictly controlled conditions.
For many, there is still some confusion about the difference between vegetarian, vegan and pescatarian. A vegetarian is described as a person that eats a plant-based diet with the inclusion of animal products such as dairy and eggs; they do not eat an animal, but will consume the products it might produce, such as milk and eggs. Vegans do not eat animals or any animal products. Pescatarians do not eat meat or poultry but will consume fish. Often, they also consume animal products such as dairy and eggs as well.
Included in these lifestyle descriptions is also another approach to eating: raw food. Many vegetarians and vegans have adopted this as part of their lifestyles as well—eating food that is only, or mostly, uncooked and unprocessed. This “of the earth” approach is considered to be a way to gain the most from what we consume—eating food as it is most closely related to how it is found in nature, and not overcooking it so that many of the nutrients cook out of it.
There are many reasons one may choose to take on a new way of life, a new approach to health and environment, a new way to see the world and community. Whatever your reason(s), if you are thinking about trying out vegetarian, vegan or pescatarian lifestyles, be sure to check in with your doctor and holistic practitioners beforehand so that you can jump-start your switch in a positive way. If you’d like to still eat meat but want to know more about where it is coming from and how it is being handled before it makes its way to your plate, there are many resources available to us in downtown NYC, including the Abingdon Square Greenmarket and Union Square Greenmarket. Both showcase the best in local and ethically-sourced products, and all of the vendors will be happy to share information about their farms and methods of production as well as their impacts on the community.
As we now see the light at the end of the two-year-long Covid-19 tunnel, so many of us in this great community of downtown NYC are looking to stay positive, stay healthy, and see our neighborhood thrive. One of the best ways to jump-start this is with ourselves, and how and what we eat. This will have a far-reaching impact on not just ourselves individually, but on the surrounding environment. Be well NYC!