People eat meat and think they will become strong as an ox, forgetting that the ox eats grass. – Pino Caruso
Deciding to become vegetarian can be a choice someone makes for many different reasons. It can be due to health issues, wanting to avoid hormones and chemicals that are used in animals, religion, fighting for animal rights or for environmental concerns.
A study conducted by the Vegetarian Times in 2017 found that around 3.2% of American adults living in the USA are vegetarians.
It is said that 2019 is the year of vegans, so that number is most likely much higher now!
If you are considering joining this lifestyle you must first identify what type of vegetarian you want to be, whether it is a full-on vegan, pescatarian, Lacto-vegetarian or Ovo-vegetarian.
Once you have decided what type of vegetarian you will be, it is best to do some research on how this will affect your life, such as identifying the health concerns surrounding vegetarianism.
If you are someone that eats meat daily or often, then it may not be the best decision to stop all animal products at once as this could lead to health issues as it may come as a shock to your body.
Instead, you should speak to your doctor or specialist and become educated on how you will get your necessary vitamins and nutrients from a plant-based diet.
A gradual change to becoming vegetarian can become a lifestyle and you will stick to it long-term. We have listed below some of the most common pros and cons of becoming vegetarian.
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The Pros of Becoming Vegetarian
A healthy vegetarian diet will include high fiber whole grains, plenty of vegetables and fruits, nuts, leafy greens, lentils and beans.
When followed correctly, a vegetarian diet can have many health benefits.
Please note that the following benefits mentioned are all based on a healthy and educated vegetarian lifestyle.
- Becoming a vegetarian can help fight diseases. Because vegetarian diets are naturally low in saturated fats and cholesterol, which are usually found in meat, research has found that vegetarians suffer fewer diseases caused by modern western diets. Vegetarians have a lower risk of developing obesity, hypertension, developing diabetes, diet-related cancers and coronary heart disease.
- Becoming a vegetarian can help you avoid less toxicity. When purchasing and consuming commercial meat, poultry, and seafood, you are more likely to be exposed to food-born illnesses, bacteria, parasites, and chemical toxins. This can be due to the animal’s environment, pollution or whether the animal was given hormones.
- Becoming a vegetarian can help promote bone health. Animal products have been found to force calcium out of your body, which can lead to bone loss and osteoporosis. Studies have found that osteoporosis rates are lower in countries where people follow vegetarian diets.
- Becoming a vegetarian can help you control your weight better. Vegetarian diets that eliminate high-calorie foods such as fatty meats, butter and cheese can result in a diet that is lower in calories. On that same note, people who practice plant-based diets are less likely to become obese. This is because they are consuming higher amounts of lower calorie foods that are filling such as vegetables, fruits, and beans.
The Concerns Surrounding Vegetarianism
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Removing meat from your diet can have health benefits already, but knowing what and how to eat is what will increase the health benefits and make you become a healthy vegetarian.
Earlier, we showed you some of the benefits of becoming a vegetarian, but when going through a lifestyle change, it is also best to know how it could affect your life negatively in the short and long term.
Below are a few of the health concerns that vegetarians face:
- Becoming a vegetarian can lead to possible nutrient deficiencies. One thing that is certain when becoming a vegetarian is the extra effort that will be needed to research and make sure your diet includes all the necessary nutrients, vitamins, and minerals needed for good health. It may be required to consume fortified foods and take supplements in order to get all your nutrients that an all plant-based diet may lack.
- Becoming a vegetarian does not automatically make you healthy. There is the common assumption that when being vegetarian means you are automatically healthier since most of the diet involves fruit and vegetables, but on the contrary, pasta, chips, French fries, and donuts are all vegetarian, but a diet full of these types of junk food will not be the best way to stay healthy, even if they are vegetarian. It could be the case for many unhealthy vegetarians.
- Becoming a vegetarian may make your meals seem more limited. Another common assumption about becoming vegetarian can be that you will have nothing tasty to eat or that you simply won’t have options. Surprisingly for some, this is completely false. In today’s culture, with the increasing numbers of people becoming vegetarian, food companies have caught on. There are sections at the grocery store that specify vegetarian and even vegan products. Various types of vegetarian proteins are available at your local grocery store. Companies have even added special logos on their products stating if they are vegan or vegetarian, which can save you the time of reading those lengthy labels. Restaurants have also joined in the vegetarian and vegan movement. In the United States, it has become more and more common to have vegetarian sections within menus. Instead of asking the waitress if something is vegan or vegetarian, you can see for yourself. Not to mention, restaurants that offer an array of all vegan food items.
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Should I Become Vegetarian?
If you are still hesitant about the idea of a vegetarian diet, it is completely normal. Any lifestyle change can bring concern and curiosity.
Like we mentioned above, many people think that removing meat from one’s diet can become a huge health issue. Protein is definitely necessary for our bones, muscles, skin, blood and cartilage.
Just because you become vegetarian though does not mean that you will not be able to receive protein or other nutrients from vegetarian or vegan products.
There are many meals that can easily be made vegetarian.
Let us start with protein. There are many products that could be in your fridge or pantry that have protein.
Some Lacto/Ovo vegetarian products that contain protein are plain greek yogurt, cottage cheese, milk, and eggs.
If you are vegan, some protein-rich products can include cooked lentils, cooked beans, non-dairy milks, cooked whole grain pasta, nuts, and cooked quinoa.
If you are looking into swapping some commonly used ingredients or products, there is an answer to that too!
Milk is a very easy one nowadays to swap because of the large variety of non-dairy milks on the market now. Some examples are soy, almond, coconut, hemp, rice, and flax milk.
When it comes to meat, poultry, and fish, you have options for meat-like products that are suitable for your plant-based diets such as tofu, tempeh, seitan, lentils, textured vegetable protein, jackfruit, and mushrooms.
Depending on what vegetarian diet you are following, you may or may not be able to consume cheese. Because cheese is made from animal milk vegans do not consume cheese, but not to worry. There are some vegan cheese swaps that are made from soy, cashew, other nut or aquafaba-based and nutritional yeast.
If you are making soups, instead of using chicken, beef or bone broth, you can use vegetable broth. It will still be vegetarian and taste just as delicious.
Baking can seem hard without being able to use eggs, but lucky for you, there are also vegan swaps when it comes to eggs in baking such as ground flax meal or chia seeds mixed with water, pureed silken tofu, Ener-G egg replacer, pureed bananas, pureed sweet potatoes or applesauce.
Just because you are cutting animal products does not mean you can continue making those delicious recipes you were used to making, all you need is to become aware of what vegetarians and vegans are using to make these swaps.
Thanks to social media, the Internet, vegetarian bloggers, and vegetarian sites, we can become easily educated and find more delicious plant-based recipes that can satisfy any craving!
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