Thought you knew everything there is to know about the vegetarian diet? These few facts may surprise you:
1. Vegetarianism has traditionally been linked to the people of ancient India. Even today, Indians make up more than 70 percent of the world's vegetarian population.
2. The first Vegetarian Society was formed in 1847 in England. The main aim of the members was to dispel the common belief that it's not possible to lead a healthy life without eating meat.
3. There are varying degrees of vegetarianism. The strictest of vegetarians not only steer clear of all forms of meat, they also avoid all animal products, including honey (bees are often killed in the production of honey), and foods which might contain traces of animal products, such as bread baked in buttered tins and sugar to which bone charcoal has been added (to make it white).
4. You might recall the scene in Notting Hill where William Thacker (Hugh Grant) goes on a blind date with a slightly off-the-wall "fruitarian". Fruitarianism is a very real form of vegetarianism, where the diet consists of fruit, nuts, seeds and other plant material that can be gathered without killing the plant (e.g. pears can be picked without killing the plant, carrots cannot).
5. Many vegetarians follow a meat-free diet in an attempt to lower the pressure meat production places on the environment. According to Wikipedia.org, growing crops for farm animals requires nearly half of the United States' water supply and 80% of its agricultural land.
6. Other people go the vegetarian route for religious reasons. Some of the denominations that actively advocate vegetarianism include the Hare Krishna and Rastafarian movements.
7. British research shows that a child's IQ predicts his likelihood of becoming a vegetarian as a young adult. You guessed it: the smarter the child, the more likely he'll eventually shun meat.
8. While veggie eating holds many health benefits, it also has other interesting effects on the body: research shows that avoiding red meat improves the sex appeal of male body odour.
9. The list of famous vegetarians includes Sir Paul McCartney, Ozzy Osborne, Sinead O'Connor, Brad Pitt, Albert Einstein, Henry Ford and Leonardo da Vinci.
10. And then, of course, it's believed that Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian during the latter part of his life. In fact, it's said that he predicted that the world of the future would be vegetarian. Records show that Hitler amused himself by telling grim stories of slaughterhouses while entertaining meat-eating guests. When they were put off their food, he would mock them for their hypocrisy. On one such occasion, he remarked: "That shows how cowardly people are. They can't face doing certain horrible things themselves, but they enjoy the benefits without a pang of conscience."
(Picture: Man eating vegetables from Shutterstock)
Sources: www.ivu.org, www.healthday.com, www.vegetarian.org.uk