Vegetarianism is the practice of eating foods that are obtained from plants and completely abstaining from meat products. A vegetarian diet can be a completely balanced diet associated with high fibre consumption. It also contains Vitamin C, E, folic acid, unsaturated fat, magnesium, and numerous phytochemicals. Vegetarian foods not only facilitate healthy living but aid in the protection of our environment as well.
The research found that eating vegetarian food such as whole grains, legumes, vegetables, nuts, and fruits and avoiding the consumption of meat and high-fat animal meals can help lower blood pressure levels. It also prevents obesity and reduces the chance of developing other chronic health conditions. However, becoming vegetarian will also result in potential nutritional deficiencies if you do not plan your meals properly.
Types of Vegetarian Diets
There are different types of vegetarian diets consumed based on how strictly people adhere to this lifestyle. The core objective of a vegetarian diet is to eliminate the part of the meat in your diet one step at a time and move you towards the plant-based one.
Let’s take a look at the different types of vegetarian diets below.
Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian Diet
The Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian diet doesn’t involve any forms of meat and fish. Still, it allows eggs and other dairy products such as cheese.
Lacto Vegetarian Diet
A Lacto Vegetarian Diet involves only dairy products, including cheese and milk, cutting out all meat, fish, and eggs from the list.
Ovo Vegetarian Diet
An Ovo Vegetarian diet includes eggs on the menu but doesn’t allow all meat, fish, and dairy products.
Pescetarian Diet is another simple way to ease into veganism by eliminating only meat from the list but would still eat eggs, fish, and dairy products.
Another way to move to the vegetarian diet plan is through flexitarian diets, where you can reduce the intake of meat, fish, dairy products, and eggs. Here you work towards not eliminating them at a go but gradually reducing them. For example, an individual who follows this diet would consume fish once a week, while the other days are focused on plant-based foods. This type of diet is not strictly a vegetarian diet but is one that leads up to it.
Vegan Diet has included only plant-based foods, cutting out every animal-based product. It means you avoid consuming all kinds of animal products, including dairy, meat, eggs, and fish and the food sources associated with animals, including honey or animal enzymes.
Vegetarian Diet: How Beneficial is It?
According to the Nutritional Statistics data, there are around 1.5 billion vegetarians worldwide. Even though the health benefits of the vegetarian diet are well-documented by various researchers, we can’t deny the presence of downsides. To clarify, we have chalked up the pros and cons of a vegetarian diet that will help you ensure it’s the right fit for you.
Pros of a Vegetarian Diet
Vegetarian diets are one of the most effective and healthiest on the planet. People choose to follow a vegetarian diet for various reasons, and we have discussed some of its benefits below.
Aids in Weight Loss
Obesity is one of the prevailing health concerns in society. The primary benefit of being a vegetarian is that it aids in weight loss effectively. Consuming beans, fruits, and regular fibre-rich vegetables will help a healthy colon by increasing the good bacteria count. As a result, it will promote lower body mass index (BMI) and reduce the risk of developing obesity.
Lower the Risk of Chronic Disease
Following a vegetarian diet reduces the chances of developing chronic health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, heart diseases, blood cholesterol level, blood pressure, kidney stones, certain types of cancer, and more. In addition, a study shows that vegetarians had a 24% lower mortality rate when compared with meat-eaters.
Positive Ethical Impact on Environment
Vegetarianism has become an ethical choice among people and a sustainable lifestyle choice for those who have growing concerns about animal cruelty. Adapting to a vegetarian diet enables the individual to impact the environment and the life of animals positively.
Fewer Grocery Costs
Besides the health and convenience benefits, a vegetarian diet also aids in financial advantage. When compared with meat products, vegetarian food sources are relatively affordable. Hence, switching to a vegetarian diet will save your health and wallet by significantly reducing the bill cost.
Cons of a Vegetarian Diet
Eating plant-based foods indeed sounds and works healthy. However, you should also expect some drawbacks while following this diet. Here we have comprised some of the detriments of a vegetarian diet.
Lack of Certain Nutrients
Generally, a vegetarian diet lacks some critical nutrients, especially protein, which is abundant in meat. As a result, this will also result in a decreased calcium intake. However, it can be replaced by adding certain food items into your diet, including beans and tofu that are rich in protein.
The vegetarian diet also lacks Vitamin B12, which is only abundant in animal-based food products. Therefore, people who follow a vegetarian diet need to replace the vitamin source by taking a B-12 supplement.
Limited Food Choices
One of the vegetarian diet’s significant concerns is the limited choice of food sources. Compared with a non-vegetarian diet, becoming vegetarian is not a convenient option, and you will have a hard time in restaurants or canteens. Nonetheless, there has been a significant rise in the market for plant-based alternatives in the past few years.
Difficult to Adapt to a New Lifestyle
Switching to a new diet and lifestyle is difficult, especially if you consume meat. In addition, the process might affect the individual’s mental health and increase the risk of anxiety, mental disorders, and depression.
The HealthifyMe Note
Create a healthy plate that perfectly balances all the nutrients. Do not rely on starchy carbs since the high-carb diet can increase your chance of developing type 2 diabetes. Due to limited options, many vegetarians tend to overdo the white rice, pasta or bread part while compromising on fibre and protein intake. It would help if you had healthy fats in limited quantities to complete your nutritional requirements.
Things to Remember while Adopting a Vegetarian Diet
A single diet combination never fits all, and no ideal one exists. The choice solely depends on various factors, including age, fitness levels, overall health, and dietary preferences. Nonetheless, if you are sure to do it the best way possible, keep the following points in mind.
- Replace meat sources with lentils, beans and soy products to ensure no protein deficiencies occur.
- If you are a regular meat-eater, who wants to swap to vegan, ease yourself into a flexitarian system.
- Choose an official date to start your plan and stick to it. Be lenient to your body and mind.
- If you want to keep preventing nutritional deficiency, you need to obtain greater knowledge about food.
- Lastly, before taking the plunge, carefully select promising food sources to get your body the nutrient nourishment it needs.
- Add nuts, legumes, low-fat dairy, vegetables and fruits to get the best out of your meals.
Embracing a vegetarian diet will be a great decision if you want to lead a happy and healthy life. However, initiating the same could be tricky and requires some work. Moreover, you have to be careful and wise in choosing the foods. Therefore, if you want to begin your vegetarian lifestyle, seek your healthcare professional’s help to ensure a plan that can meet your nutritional requirements. Similarly, if you are already a vegetarian, take cognisance of your eating. You must know if you are missing out on any essential nutrients.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. What are the disadvantages of a vegetarian diet?
A. While the vegetarian diet has many advantages, some disadvantages deter people from preferring a meat-free diet. For example, a study says that the primary reason people avoid a vegetarian diet is vitamin deficiencies, especially Vitamin B12 and iron present only in meat. It, in turn, will eventually increase the need to find alternative sources for the missing nutrients. However, these health detriments can be prevented by properly planning your diet with specific nutrients and taking vitamin supplements.
Q. Why is a vegetarian diet not good?
A. Going vegetarian is an excellent way to promote physical health and the planet. However, it comes with its risks and challenges. For example, according to a study switching to a plant-based diet might cause severe side effects, including low energy levels, gut problems, hormone disruptions, and lack of iron and Vitamin B12 deficiency.
On top, a new study suggests that long-term vegetarianism can cause genetic mutation, developing a high risk of colon cancer. However, not all vegetarians are prone to these symptoms. Hence make sure to plan your dietary choices with the help of an expert professional to avoid potential health issues.
Q. Do humans need meat?
A. People still have misconceptions about needing meat to achieve optimal dietary requirements. Humans do not need to consume meat to survive or to stay healthy. The choice is based on the individual since it is possible to get most of the nutritional requirements even in a plant-based diet for both children and adults.
Scientific study shows people live better without consuming meat or other animal-related products. It can reduce the chance of developing chronic health conditions, including heart diseases, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. On top, cutting down meals serve good for you, the animals, and the environment.
Q. Do vegetarians live longer?
A. Research conducted at Loma Linda University has found that vegetarian men live for an average of 10 years compared with non-vegetarian men. On the other hand, the women’s vegetarian group gets an additional six years to their lifespan. It indicates the power of a plant-based diet and its nutrients, which may add a decade or more to the average lifespan. However, the extra lifespan is not only achieved by non-meat eating habits. It involved a comprehensive study to see how lifestyle choices (being active, not consuming alcohol or smoking), dietary needs, and a healthy weight can impact the health and longevity of an individual.
Q. What are humans naturally supposed to eat?
A. For decades, people have debated the human diet’s nature. However, researchers have found that basic anatomical comparisons reveal that humans usually get recognised as herbivores rather than carnivores or omnivores. For example, human teeth are suited for eating veggies, fruits, and other starch-filled sources.
Moreover, from top to bottom, the human digestive system has evolved to process the simple components of plant-based foods. The stomach would secret highly-acidic juices while consuming meats to break down the complex substances. If you exclude animal products from your diet once at a time, it will do wonders for personal and planet health.
Q. What would happen if we stopped eating meat?
A. Eating little to no amount of meat will make you feel more energetic and naturally lower your risk of developing heart disease, cancer, and obesity and help you lead a healthy and longer life. However, abruptly eliminating the meat in your diet without substituting its nutrient source with any vegan food will lead to potential health conditions.
A study found that such consumers might experience anaemia due to low levels of iron, muscle wasting, and Vitamin B12 Deficiency. Hence it would be best if you started small rather than making drastic changes all at once since it will be difficult to maintain.
Q. Which country is pure vegetarian?
A. According to a survey carried out in the year 2021, it is revealed that Indian holds a significant share, on average of 38% of vegetarians among its population. The concept of vegetarianism became popular in the country after the rise of Buddhism and Jainism in the 6th Century. These religions emphasise giving respect to all forms of life. However, in some parts, vegetarianism is also related to Lacto-vegetarianism or Ovo-vegetarianism, which includes dairy products or eggs. In addition, eating meat products is also found to be common in the country’s coastal states.
Q. Do vegetarians look younger?
A. A scientific study shows that following a plant-based diet or eating more vegetables helps the skin remain supple, wrinkle-free, and youthful. It is due to the presence of high concentrations of certain nutrients. For example, Vitamin C, Lysine, and Antioxidants significantly reduce inflammation and oxidation, thus making you look younger. However, it would help if you kept in mind that vegetarians who consume a diet high in refined carbohydrates and sugar do not necessarily enjoy better skin.
Q. Is it healthier to eat meat or be a vegetarian?
A. In general, the overall dietary patterns mean much more than the type of food you eat. It explains that though vegetarians are scientifically proven to be healthier and younger than non-vegetarians, it solely depends on the variety of foods consumed. So, you can achieve your optimal health status either by being a vegetarian or a meat consumer.
An ideal and well-planned diet will provide most of the necessary nutrients, including protein. Hence, whatever you choose, include a variety of whole foods, reduce processed foods and move towards a healthy lifestyle.
Q. Does your body go through withdrawal when you stop eating meat?
A. A meat detox process might sound simple, but sticking to the new lifestyle can be challenging. It could affect your physiological and psychological health, despite its benefit in getting rid of accumulated toxins. When you suddenly stop consuming meat or an animal-based diet, it will significantly impact your gut microbiome. It will ultimately result in withdrawal symptoms like sleeping disorders, irritability, fatigue, muscle cramps, joint or muscle pain, dizziness, headaches, etc. However, they subside within a few days.