There are said to be numerous advantages to being a vegetarian, so in this article I will look at the main benefits of a vegetarian diet for good health.
To begin with, there are also a lot of myths surrounding the choice of not eating meat or fish, so I will get the more commonly held of them out of the way too.
Myths About the Health Side of Vegetarianism
The most common myth is that vegetarians are simply not as healthy as those who eat meat.
This is not exactly true, as a vegetarian diet can be just as healthy than a diet that includes meat as long as unhealthy processed foods are avoided.
Another common myth is that vegetarians do not get enough protein. This is also not true, as there are plenty of plant-based sources of protein as well as eggs and dairy (as these are allowed foods). In fact, there is a lot of evidence to support the idea that eating too much protein can be potentially harmful to your health.
Some people believe that a vegetarian diet is not suitable for children. This is also not true, as a vegetarian diet can be healthy for children and can provide them with the nutrients they need to grow and thrive.
Another myth is that individuals who do not eat meat or poultry can lower their risk for developing heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer.
This is only partially true and mostly depends upon the quality of meat eaten. Intensively farmed, grain-fed animals produce lower quality meat than grass-fed, organically farmed livestock.
Obesity and type 2 diabetes are generally the result of eating excessive amounts of refined, grain-based carbohydrates, processed foods with added sugars, especially fructose and sweetened beverages, which affects diets across the spectrum from carnivore to vegan.
Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet
A vegetarian diet has many health benefits, and can be of great value if you want to enjoy good health, slower aging and better longevity.
It can help you lose weight, lower your cholesterol and blood pressure, and reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer.
Vegetarian diets tend to be higher in fiber and lower in saturated fat than diets that include meat, making them beneficial for overall health. They can also be an excellent source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
As long as you are mindful to avoid grain-based carbohydrates and foods containing sugars where possible, it can also help you lose weight and keep it off. And it can help you live a longer, healthier life.
A vegetarian diet is a healthy option, even if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. And it can be a healthy option for kids and teens, too.
If you're thinking about becoming a vegetarian, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian. They can help you make sure you're getting all the nutrients you need.
Disadvantages of a Vegetarian Diet
While there are many advantages to refraining from eating meat, there are also some disadvantages to consider.
The main problem, more especially faced by vegans who ingest no animal products whatsoever, is the difficulty in getting all the important vitamins and minerals needed for good health.
While plants contain all the building blocks for the nutrients we need, the human digestive system is not particularly well-designed for extracting many of them directly from their plant source.
Most notably is the problem obtaining the important "B" vitamins, especially B12. In many cases, these need to be supplemented. However, most vitamin supplements contain artificial versions of the vitamins which the body does not absorb as well as the natural form.
Vitamin A may be readily available in orange vegetables like carrots, but this is in the beta-carotene form, of which the body only manages to convert a tiny percentage to its active form, retinol.
Another big problem for vegetarians and vegans is the inclusion of a high percentage of grain-based foods to make up the shortfall once supplied by meat or fish.
Whole grains (as well as some beans, seeds and nuts) contain phytic acid which blocks the absorption of several important minerals including iron, zinc, potassium, magnesium and calcium.
While processed grains are low in phytic acid, they are of course high on the Glycemic Index scale, for which ingestion spikes blood sugar and insulin, which are problematic to health.
The consumption of unhealthy oils needs to be avoided as well. So-called vegetable oils (these are really seed oils) are high in inflammatory omega 6 fatty acid, which is far more dangerous to the vascular system and heart health than the saturated fats in meat.
Unfortunately, many vegetarians erroneously believe that cooking with vegetable oil is the healthier alternative to using lard, butter or ghee. A better, heart-healthier option is to use olive oil for lower heat and coconut oil for high heat cooking.
The Environmental Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet
Vegetarianism is often lauded for its health benefits, but it turns out that going veg also has a major impact on the environment.
A vegetarian diet requires less land to produce, less water, and generates fewer greenhouse gases than a meat-based diet. In fact, the United Nations has recommended that people reduce their meat consumption in order to help combat climate change.
So, not only is a vegetarian diet better to eat for your health, it's also better for the planet. If you're looking to make a difference, ditching meat (or at least reducing your consumption) is a great place to start.
The Ethics of a Vegetarian Diet
A vegetarian diet has many ethical benefits. First, it is a humane alternative to farming animals.
Animals raised for food are often kept in cramped, unsanitary conditions and are given hormones and antibiotics to keep them alive and maximize their growth.
Intensively farmed livestock are fed a diet high in grains, which is for the most part unnatural for them. It also promotes illnesses, which require additional input and the administration of medications from vets.
Remember: The digestive system of grazing animals is designed for eating grass and meadow plants, not grains.
A vegetarian diet is more environmentally sustainable than a meat-based diet. The livestock industry is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation.
The Practical Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet
A low-carb, vegetarian diet has many health benefits. It can lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer. It can also help you lose weight and keep it off.
There are many reasons to choose a well researched diet that is vegetarian in nature. For some people, it is a matter of ethics or religion. Others choose vegetarianism for health reasons. Some vegetarians eat eggs and dairy products, but others do not.
Studies have shown that vegetarians are less likely to be obese than non-vegetarians. They are also more likely to maintain their weight loss over time.
While being vegetarian has many positive health, ethical and ecological benefits over eating a meat-based diet, there are also some negative aspects that should be considered before deciding to change to eating a mostly plant-based diet.
If you are thinking about becoming a vegetarian, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian. They can help you make sure you are getting the nutrients you need.
Posted: Oct 28, 2022