What did Socrates, Plato, Albert Einstein, Leonard da Vinci, William Shakespeare, Charles Darwin, and Mahatma Gandhi have in common? They all advocated a vegetarian lifestyle. George Bernard Shaw, vegetarian, famous writer and political analysts of the early 1900s wrote “A man fed on whisky and dead bodies cannot do the finest work of which he is capable.”
Meat-eaters often contend that vegetarian diets do not provide enough protein and other essential nutrients, but this is not necessarily the case. Although there are many pros and cons of vegetarianism but with careful planning, a diet that contains no animal products can be nutritionally complete and also offer many health benefits. Poorly planned vegetarian diets, however, can pose health risks.
Today there is a great tend to become vegetarian or vegan to maintain a balance and optimal health avoiding some serious health hazards. The health related benefits of vegetarian diets are well discussed all over the world for many years. Although there are many health benefits of vegetarian diets but choosing a vegetarian diets, not planned properly may prove adverse effects on one’s health. In this article, we will throw light on the pros and cons of vegetarianism and how we should incorporate vegetarian diets in our life.
Pros and Cons of Vegetarianism:
Lets see the pros and cons of vegetarianism, types of vegetarians, dietary recommendation for vegetarianism
Why People Become Vegetarians?
In parts of the world where food is scare, Vegetarianism is not a choice but a necessity in spite of the pros and cons of vegetarianism. Where food is abundant, people choose vegetarian diets for many reasons.
People may choose a vegetarian diet because of religious beliefs, concern for the environment and to enjoy optimal health. The decision to adopt a vegetarian diet is often motivated by concerns about the moral treatment of animals. Some people prefer vegetarian diet as they actively protest the cruel treatments of animals in slaughterhouses by refusing to eat meat. A plant-based diet is the ideal for them to show the kindness and compassion for all living things.
Types of Vegetarians:
It is quite obvious that vegetarians abstain themselves from meat or meat-related products. This is the common factor in all types of vegetarian but their diets different from each other in specific dietary practices. We may classify them in the following types:
Lacto-ovo-vegetarians are those who embrace dairy and eggs products in their diets but exclude the meat, poultry and fish. Lacto-ovo-vegetarins are regarded as the most common forms of Vegetarianism.
Vegan is the most strictest form of vegetarianism because this type of Vegetarians avoid all animal products, including dairy, eggs and even honey. It is said that they avoid all types ingredients which are animal-based in their lifestyle.
Although Lacto Vegetarians include dairy products in their diet but abstain themselves from eggs, meat, poultry and fish.
This type of vegetarians incorporate semi-vegetarian diet like fish, seafood cheese, olive oil, pasta into a primarily vegetarian diet; but avoid other forms of animal flesh.
5. Zen macrobiotic Vegetarians:
Zen macrobiotic diets are mostly vegan and stress whole grains, locally grown vegetables, beans, sea vegetables and soups.
Pros of Vegetarianism:
As the vegetarian diets comprise of less fat, saturated fat and cholesterol than non-vegetarian diets. Vegetarian diets that emphasize fresh fruits and vegetables contain higher amounts of antioxidants such as beta-carotene and vitamin C and E, which protect the body from cell and tissue damage. Fruits and vegetables also contain dietary fiber and photochemical- substances that are not essential in diet but that can have important health effects.
Cardiovascular Health Benefits:
As the vegetarians indulge in plant-based foods they do not suffer from high blood cholesterol levels. As a result, they suffer less from cardiovascular disease. Vegetarian diets low in fat and saturated fat combined with other lifestyle habits can reverse the clogging of arteries that eventually can lead to heart disease or stroke.
Vegetarians usually weigh less than non-vegetarians because their diets provide less energy and partly because of other healthy lifestyle factors such as regular exercise. Vegetarians are often encouraged to incorporate more fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes. This type of dietary intake provides a wide range of essential nutrients. This dietary intake can help significantly in weight management as this type of vegetarian diets have lower calorie. As a result, the vegetarians suffer less from obesity and high blood pressure.
Protect from Cancer:
Studies have shown that vegetarians have the less risks factors from the disease like breast and colon cancer. Due to the intake of high dietary fiber by the vegetarians, they suffer less from colon cancer. The vegetarian women with lower level of estrogen may stay safe from breast cancer.
Cons of Vegetarianism:
Although vegetarian diets offer many health benefits, certain types of vegetarian diets pose some unique nutritional risks. The more limited the vegetarian diet, the more likely are nutritional problems. Lacto-ovo-vegetarians diets that contain a variety of foods generally are nutritionally adequate but can be high in fat and cholesterol. However, iron content may be low if the diet contains large amounts of milk products.
Some essential nutrients like vitamins b12 and Vitamin D, Vitamin c, iron are not found in adequate amount in many vegetarian diets. As a result, the vegetarians often lack the essential nutrients in their daily dietary. But a well-planned vegetarian diets and supplementation may provide the essential nutrients.
Vegetarian diets tend to be low in iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12. The best sources of these nutrients are animal-based foods like red meat for iron and zinc, fortified milk for calcium and vitamin D and vitamin B12 is found in animal-based products like eggs and milk as well as meat, fish and poultry. Plant foods contain a form of iron called non-heme iron that is not as well absorbed as the heme-iron in animal-based foods. Because high protein intake increases calcium losses, vegans who have a lower protein intake may need less calcium than non-vegetarians.
Not Always Healthy:
While intaking vegetarian diets prove many health benefits but there is an increasing number of heavily processed vegetarian foods, which contain more fat, sodium, added sugar and high calories. Very limited vegan diets, such as fruitarian diets or extreme Zen macrobiotic diets, pose the greatest nutritional risks. These diets are likely to be deficient in many essential nutrients.
Although vegetarian diets may be adequate for most people, vegetarian diets must be planned carefully for people in periods of rapid growth – infants, young children and women who are pregnant or breast feeding.
Exposure to Chemicals:
Although fruits and vegetables are very much healthy diets providing some essential nutrients, but these vegetables are today harvested with more chemicals than limited measurement. As a result, the vegetarians have the greater risk of coming in close contact to the pesticides and chemicals through their foods. These vegetables posing a great health risks in our life.
Dietary Recommendation for vegetarians:
- It is said that vegetarians do not get essential nutrients in their diets which are very much needed for growth, body building and fight against diseases and boosting immunity power. But vegetarians who include diary products, eggs in their diet can easily fulfill the necessary nutrients requirements in their diets. But it is important to note that they must take low-fat milk products and avoid excess taking of eggs. The best result can be obtained if the vegetarians maintain a healthy eating habits.
- If the vegan diets do not provide complete protein, then look for eating complementary plant protein or supplementary foods to fulfill the body’s needs for protein production. As the vegans generally avoid all animal food products, it is best recommended to add supplement in their diets that contain vitamin B12. such as fortified soy milk. Vegans also include a regular source of vitamin D if sun exposure is limited.
- Dietary fat should not be kept away from the children who are generally habituated with vegetarian diets. Include some foods higher in fat like eggs, nuts, seeds, butter, cheese, avocados and olive oil etc to fulfil their nutrient and energy requirements.
- Vegetarian diets give you the luxury of a large range of food items. So choose a variety of foods including whole grains, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds as well as diary products and eggs if needed. Do not forget to involve in physical activities for your overall healthy life.
As there are many pros and cons of vegetarianism, the decision to adopt a vegetarian diet should be taken very wisely after discussing a professional nutritionist. Vegetarian diets offer a large number of health benefits as well as it supports the vegetarians against the cruelty done against living animals. Moreover, a well-planned and balanced approach to vegetarianism can lead to a fulfilling and healthier life style choice.