Have you ever wondered why many people become vegetarians and choose this type of diet? For some of us, vegetarian food is a way to live healthier or avoid hormones used in animal products. For others, such nutrition has more to do with religion, animal rights or environmental concerns. However, if you are thinking about this change, you should first consider whether you want to become a true vegetarian. Once you have decided what foods to avoid, you can also work out a nutrition plan. Thus, you can ensure that you are able to get all the nutrients that your body needs. What can actually make us give up meat? Here are some of the main reasons, as well as the advantages and disadvantages, if you want to become a vegetarian.
How and why can you become a vegetarian?
A vegetarian diet has many benefits if you follow a good diet properly. If you avoid meat, but eat only processed breads and pasta, excess sugar and very few vegetables and fruits, you probably will not be able to take many benefits of this diet. However, if you are a real vegetarian, this means that you do not eat meat, poultry or eat fish. This category of eaters can be further divided according to the animal products you choose for your diet:
- If you become an Ovo-lacto vegetarian, it means that you are eating both eggs and dairy products.
- Lacto vegetarians eat dairy products but no eggs.
- Ovo vegetarians eat eggs but no dairy products.
If you eat vegan food, you will not eat meat, poultry or fish. However, vegans do not consume dairy products, eggs or other animal products such as gelatin or honey. Flexitarians and others follow a so-called semi-vegetarian or flexitarian diet. People who follow this diet eat mainly plant foods, but occasionally include meat, dairy, eggs, poultry and fish in small quantities in their menu.
Religious and ethical reasons
Many people become vegetarians, mainly for religious reasons. Several religions prohibit or restrict the consumption of animal meat. For example, many Hindu sects prohibit meat consumption. However, most Indian restaurants have a variety of meat and fish on the menu. A majority of the Buddhist and some Christian movements, including the Seventh-day Adventists are vegetarians.
Many vegetarians are guided by a personal philosophy to choose this diet. It is morally and ethically wrong for them to consume animal meat and animal products such as eggs and milk. Because livestock farming in restricted spaces is considered inhumane, many people choose not to eat meat.
Other concerns about meat are the way many manufacturers treat it. It is rare for meat to be contaminated during processing. One such example is the food poisoning of 1982 in the United States. This was caused by burgers made from infected beef in fast-food restaurants. The other major problem with beef is the “mad cow disease,” which spread throughout Europe and the United States.
Ecological and economic reasons
Many people choose vegetarianism because they fear that the production of animal products causes enormous harm to the environment. Due to the large global demand for meat, most small family farms have grown into large meat production businesses. This inevitably involves more damage to nature. The use of fertilizers in animal food, herbicides, drugs and so on makes these products dangerous to the environment.
Another important reason why vegetarians do not eat meat is the adverse health effects of meat products. Some studies have shown that moderate vegetarianism, which does not exclude all animal products and meat products, has a very positive impact on human health. This type of diet can reduce the risk of a number of chronic diseases.
Reduced fat and calorie intake also reduce the risk of obesity. This may also help with type 2 diabetes. As a result, you can maintain normal levels of blood pressure. Adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet at the expense of fat will also affect your blood pressure. Statistics also show that people who avoid meat are more active, which also promotes heart activity and lowers blood pressure.
Good for the heart health
The reduced risk of heart disease is also a good reason why you become a vegetarian. This is due to the reduced intake of saturated fats from meat and the consumption of antioxidants that are found in most plant foods. Improved activity of the digestive system. Diseases such as constipation and diverticula are rare in vegetarians due to the high fiber diet.
Vegetarianism also has a reduced risk of kidney disease, kidney stones and bile. The lower protein content in the vegetarian diet, as well as the plant proteins consumption (such as soy) is likely to be the reason for reduced risk of kidney disease. Vegetarians are up to one-third less likely to die from heart disease or hospitalized, according to trusted sources. Of course, the choice of food is very important – vegetarian or not. For example, if you want to take advantage of the heart-protecting benefits of this diet, you should select:
- fiber-rich whole grains
- vegetables and fruits
- other low glycemic foods
The idea is to consume soluble fiber and select foods that help keep blood sugar levels stable. In this way you can lower your cholesterol and the general risk of heart attack.
Reduced cancer risk
While the benefits are not entirely significant, vegetarians may have a slight advantage that lowers the risk of cancer. Studies found that a vegetarian diet in high-mortality populations can generally reduce the risk of cancer. In addition, the results of the scientists show that certain types of animal-free diets reduce the risk of certain cancers:
- It has been discovered that a vegan diet reduces cancer risk more than other diets.
- Vegetarianism also provides the greatest protection against women-specific cancers.
- A vegetarian Ovolacto diet can help to prevent cancer of the gastrointestinal tract.
However, other trusted studies found that only a non-significant decrease in the risk of colorectal cancer exists in people who are vegetarian. Many researchers claim that a diet with fresh fruits and vegetables may be the key. Being vegetarian can make it easier for you to eat the daily recommended five servings. An exclusive vegan diet is not absolutely necessary. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables could be beneficial.
Disadvantages of the vegetarian diet
Despite the undeniable benefits of a vegetarian diet, it also has a number of disadvantages. The limited intake of meat and dairy products is one possible cause of inadequate intake of essential nutrients. The lack of important nutrients is even more acute among extreme vegetarians. However, people who consume milk, eggs, and other animal products (except meat) are less likely to suffer from a lack of essential nutrients. There are studies showing that vegetarian meals are not suitable for certain groups as active athletes and adolescents.
In vegetarian dishes, the main problem is the supply of high-quality protein which is most easily available with meat intake. However, a balanced vegetarian diet that includes other animal foods can meet the body’s protein requirements. Nutritionists in the US and Canada agree that a properly planned vegetarian diet can be healthy. The diet contains all the necessary nutrients and reduces the risk of some chronic diseases. So what are the health benefits of a vegetarian diet? Such a nutritional plan has many advantages if you follow it correctly. If you avoid meat, but eat only processed breads and pasta, excess sugar, and very few vegetables and fruits, you probably will not be able to use many benefits of this diet.
Is a vegetarian diet safe?
The risks associated with vegetarianism sometimes include a lack of specific vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B-12 and omega-3 fatty acids. The foods you choose make the difference. Technically speaking, you can become such a vegetarian who lives exclusively on snacks, fries and milkshakes that have low nutritional value. As a result, you will not take advantage of the many health benefits. Remember, empty calories can slip into any type of diet, whether it is with or without meat.
Pregnant and nursing mothers can also receive the nutrients they need from a vegetarian diet. The same applies to children. If you follow a vegan diet and are pregnant, nursing, or have a baby, you may need to add extra vitamin B-12 and vitamin D. Extra iron, folic acid and omega-3 fatty acids are also a good idea, though vegetarians may actually consume more folic acid than people on a diet that contains meat.
How can you become a vegetarian?
First, set a date. You can mark your calendar with the date on which you start with the vegetarian diet. Or you decide on a step-by-step approach. It may work best to give up red meat first, then poultry and then fish. Or you can make your pantry completely vegetarian and start with a clean slate. You can also select certain days of the week to eat vegetarian meals. You can slowly add more days if you have become accustomed to following this diet.
Resist the temptation
There are many forms of vegetarian diet. It does not always have to be all or nothing. In other words, if you want to avoid certain foods for a reason, you can look for delicious alternatives when you go to the grocery store. There you will find vegetarian burgers, meat substitute chicken nuggets and all sorts of meat alternatives. However, keep in mind that some of these foods are heavily processed and may not be the best choice for regular consumption. Another approach is to focus on trying new vegetarian foods. Try new vegetables, cooking methods and meat alternatives. You can discover flavors that you did not know.
Change ingredients with meat substitutes
You may still be able to prepare many of your favorite vegetarian or vegan recipes. Often you can replace the main protein with a vegetarian source such as tofu or tempeh. If the recipe contains an animal broth, you can use vegetable broth instead. If you avoid dairy products, try a non-dairy one like almond or soy. Here are some suggestions:
- Meat, poultry or fish: tofu, tempeh, lentils, structured vegetable protein, jackfruit, mushrooms
- Cheese: soybean, cashew, other nut or aquafaba cheese, nutritional yeast.
- Beef or chicken broth: vegetable stock or broth.
- Milk: soymilk, almond milk, coconut milk, rice milk.
- Eggs: 1 tablespoon of ground flour or chia seeds + 3 tablespoons of warm water, ¼ cup of pureed tofu or try pureed bananas, sweet potatoes or apple sauce.