The pros and cons of a vegetarian diet - The Smiling Heart

The pros and cons of a vegetarian diet

There are many reasons why someone may decide to try a vegetarian diet, but anyone thinking of giving up meat should realize that there are both advantages and disadvantages to doing so.

Vegetarianism is, of course, a broad description of eating a largely plant-based diet. There are various subsections of the lifestyle, but if you are considering becoming a vegetarian, you should know what you would need to do to continue having a healthy and balanced diet.

For some, becoming a vegetarian may be for ethical reasons, but for others, it could be an entirely health-driven decision. Here are some pros and cons of maintaining a vegetarian diet.

Pros

Many converts to the vegetarian lifestyle champion the benefits of cutting out red meat and other foodstuffs that can cause health issues. A vegetarian diet is naturally low in fats and high in fibers, so you are already treating your body more responsibly. Although not all meat is produced in an unhealthy manner, you are also eliminating your exposure to that issue.

Another big reason for choosing to be a vegetarian is the ethical standpoint. The killing of animals for human consumption has not always been done humanely, and cutting meat out of your diet can be one way you can do your part to stop the raising of livestock purely for food. The thinking is that if more people turn to a vegetarian diet, there would fewer animals killed.

As a vegetarian diet can be healthier for you, it can help you lose weight if you follow it correctly. Many non-vegetarian foods are high in fat and can, therefore, contribute to an unhealthy, overweight lifestyle. Reducing or cutting out meat entirely from your diet could help lose that weight.

Although there are general health benefits associated with a vegetarian diet, research has also shown that it can help fight against specific life-threatening diseases. A 2014 study showed that diets high in animal protein were linked with a fourfold increase in cancer death risks as compared to diets with plant-based protein sources.

Cons

There is an assumption that if you follow a vegetarian diet, you will automatically have a healthy lifestyle, but this assumption is not entirely correct. There are naturally positive aspects to a vegetarian diet, but your meal choices are still critical. You still must eat healthily to be healthy – it does not change magically overnight.

Due to the make up of a vegetarian diet, you could run the risk of getting anemia. Anemia occurs when there is not enough hemoglobin carrying oxygen in your blood, which can result in fatigue. You need iron to produce the hemoglobin protein, so if you are not replacing meat with another iron-rich food, you could harm yourself. If you are worried that your diet is iron deficient, there is a simple anemia test you can take that will tell you if you need to rectify your levels.

Although there are many ways that a vegetarian diet helps the natural world, there has also been an increase in the number of herbicides and pesticides used to improve crop yields and meet the demand for increased quality of fruits and vegetables. These chemicals can end up in the soil and on the crops before entering the human body when the food is consumed.

In addition to the possibility of a lack of iron in a vegetarian diet, there are other nutritional deficiencies that can occur if you cut out meat and fish completely. Omega-3 fatty acids that are critical for brain function are not as prevalent in a vegetarian diet, so you will need to source them from somewhere else. Levels of vitamin B12 and vitamin D, which helps with the health of your bones, may also be reduced.

Some types of vegetarianism reduce the intake of nutrients and vitamins more than others, as there are different food groups that are omitted depending on the diet. Changing to a vegetarian diet is not automatically healthier for you, but if you continue to monitor what you eat and stick to a balanced diet, including any supplements that you may need, there is no reason you can’t lead a healthy lifestyle that also coincides with your ethical views.