The Vegetarian Diet Review
There are a variety of vegetarian diets, but none of them include the consumption of meat, poultry, or fish. There are of course the lacto-ovo vegetarians, usually referred to simply as “vegetarians” because they use dairy and eggs. Vegans on the other hand don’t eat anything with animal origins.
Is the Vegetarian Diet the Right Diet?
Ten years ago, 6% of Americans considered themselves to be vegetarians. This number has dropped to 5% according to the latest Gallup poll.
Some vegetarians make their decision to become vegetarian based on health reasons, preferring to avoid subjecting their body to the challenge of digesting animal-based products. Others believe in the “moral” aspect of becoming vegetarian, in that it is wrong to eat and kill animals, and that modern farming practices are unethical.
Ecological and sustainability concerns can also play a role for those who decide to become a vegetarian, although health and moral concerns are the two primary reasons.
The Vegetarian Diet Benefits
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that a recent study at Loma Linda University tracked more than 70,000 people over the age of 25 across the United States for six years.
In the study, half of the participants were non-vegetarians. These subjects lived similar lifestyles in other facets of their life. For example, some participants avoided alcohol or coffee, and some participants never smoked tobacco.
The data collected from the study was particularly interesting. Mortality rates were collected from the different groups in the study, and over 2,500 deaths occurred in the study. However, vegetarians were 12% less likely to die of any cause than those who ate meat.
Other studies have found the rates that vegetarians die from heart disease are about 20% lower than those who eat meat. For vegetarians who eat fish, but not meat, this rate drops another 14%, meaning that vegetarians who eat fish are 34% less likely to die from heart disease.
Additional data shows that vegetarians tend to have lower cholesterol levels and a lower BMI than meat eaters. Other health risks vegetarians tend to reduce include cancer, dementia, kidney disease, arthritis, osteoporosis, and high blood pressure.
Problems With The Vegetarian Diet
Vitamin B-12 is the only essential vitamin present in animal products in great amounts, but not in produce. Most people who adopt a vegetarian diet will eat eggs and dairy, which solves this issue.
However, vegans may suffer from a b-12 deficiency, which can cause red blood cells to become enlarged and malfunction. Other problems may develop too such as muscle weakness, incontinence, and dementia.
Many meat eaters also wonder how vegetarians get enough protein, but studies have shown that vegetarians can consume an adequate amount of protein from foods like nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, and beans. Vegetarians that eat dairy and eggs can easily consume enough protein.
Another common issue brought up by meat eaters for vegetarians is the risk of anemia, which is an iron deficiency. Studies have shown that vegetarians tend to have a greater risk for developing anemia, although Americans adopting a vegetarian lifestyle are quickly finding ways to fulfill their iron requirements. It is not nearly as big of an issue as it was say ten years ago.
Vegetarian AND Low Carb?
Low carb diets are all the rage right now, and anyone considering vegetarian lifestyle will probably consider some type of low carb lifestyle.
Vegetables are already considered low carb – at least for the most part. Leafy greens and cruciferous foods are all considered low carb and most varieties of squash are acceptable as well.
Fruits tend to be trickier, since fruit is higher in sugar content. Fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, peaches, watermelon, and grapefruit all satisfy the requirements for being a “low carb fruit.” Bananas and apples are two of the most popular high carb fruits due to their higher than normal sugar content.
Nuts and seeds will become your friend if you decide the low carb vegetarian diet. Nuts and seeds are filling, having good fats and a nice amount of protein, and are versatile. Almonds, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, peanuts, cashews, are all good nutrition sources and make for a great, healthy snack.
Keep in mind; you don’t have to be low-carb while on the vegetarian diet. Many people simply choose to go low carb and vegetarian.
A carefully thought out vegetarian diet can enable you to respect the environment, save some animals lives, and satisfy your own personal nutritional needs. It’s important you test out different diet choices so you can balance your body’s need for macro and micro nutrients.
If you’ve been thinking about the vegetarian diet, then you should really just go for it and see if you like it. There are hardly any drawbacks to a vegetarian diet, other than the fact you can no longer consume bacon. Still, vegetarianism may be the right choice for your health, and it should be worth consideration as a diet choice.