No Meat, No Problem: Is Vegetarianism Healthy for You?
Vegetarianism is on the rise, but is eating a vegetarian diet any healthier than one that includes meat? Don’t vegetarians struggle with eating the right vitamins, minerals and nutrients? How do they eat enough protein every day without meat?
There are a lot of misconceptions and stereotypes when it comes to vegetarianism. And honestly, some of these myths give people the wrong idea about a plant-based diet, putting them off to at least trying out vegetarianism.
However, we now know more than ever about the negative effects of eating processed and red meat on our health, which is why many are turning to a plant-based or vegetarian diet. And it seems that doctors, dieticians and nutritionists agree - eating a vegetarian, or at least plant-based, diet is a lot better for your mind and body than a diet meat-based one, especially if you consume a large amount of processed or red meat.
That is, of course, if you pick the right foods. A good plant-based diet is made up of plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, beans and whole grains. Aim to include a variety of healthy food choices each day to get all of those essential nutrients, such as vitamin B12 and Omega-3s. Including eggs, milk, cheese and yogurt (or calcium-fortified plant alternatives) make it very easy to meet your nutrient goals.
As long as you’re smart about what you’re eating and listening to your body, don’t worry about not meeting your nutrient needs. It’s true that vegetarians have lower levels of iron stored as ferritin, but the levels are in the normal range and aren’t a deficiency. When it comes to ferritin, more is not really better anyway.
Let’s let dietician Amelia Harray take it away on this one: “Plant-based alternatives to meat, such as legumes, nuts, seeds, and tofu, have similar distinguishing nutrients (iron, protein, zinc), while being naturally lower in saturated fat and higher in fiber.” By just cutting down on the amount of meat meals you consume each week (especially red meat!), you significantly impact your health for the better.
We’re not saying that meat is the devil, by the way. Meat can be really good for you as an important source of things like protein and fiber. The World Health Organization, among others, suggests including poultry, seafood and even small amounts of red meat in your diet for optimal health. Mainly, try to cut down on red and processed meats, as these are high in salt and saturated fat (and increase your risk of heart disease). You don’t have to go full-fledged vegetarian to improve your health by any means.
A vegetarian, or plant-based, diet is associated with a lower risk of premature death, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Junk food plays a primary role in many chronic conditions, while red and processed meats increase the risk of colorectal cancer. “A vegetarian Mediterranean diet may also be associated with lower rates of depression, however this relationship is less clear,” adds Dr. Malcolm Forbes.
Going vegetarian is better for the environment’s health, too! In most climates, meat and dairy food production has a larger negative environmental impact than plant-based foods. Even without following a strict vegetarian diet, just by reducing your overall meat consumption benefits both you and the earth!
At Beardy Boys, we believe by making small changes to the way we eat, we can change our health and the world.