Should I Go Vegetarian?

Should I Go Vegetarian?

 

 

Should I Go Vegetarian?

PROS
1. Lower environmental footprint
2. Animal Welfare
3. Water conservation
4. Soil conservation
5. Processed meat linked to colon cancer
6. Meat linked to heart disease
7. Healthy Colon
8. Lowers the risk of diabetes
9. Healthy weight
10. Help alleviate world hunger
11. Rich in antioxidants

CONS
1. Lacking in essential nutrients
2. Highly processed foods, additives and preservatives

 

It seems nearly trendy at the moment to follow a vegetarian diet.  However, is it the best option? We have looked at both the pros and cons of following a vegetarian diet.  Please bear in mind there are many versions of vegetarian

 

Vegetarian – definition from The Vegetarian Society

“A vegetarian is someone who lives on a diet of grains, pulses, legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits, fungi, algae, yeast and/or some other non-animal-based foods (e.g. salt) with, or without, dairy products, honey and/or eggs. A vegetarian does not eat foods that consist of,
or have been produced with the aid of products consisting of or created from, any part of the body of a living or dead animal. This includes meat, poultry, fish, shellfish*, insects, by-products of slaughter** or any food made with processing aids created from these.”

Source: The Vegetarian Society

Vegan – definition from Vegan Society:

“Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”

Source: Vegan Society

Pescatarian – definition from Miriam Webster dictionary:

of one whose diet includes fish but no other meat[

Source: Miriam Webster dictionary:

 

PROS

1. Lower Environmental Footprint

Did you know that the animal industry contributes to 51% of methane gases? Methane gases are considered the most harmful to the environment and climate control.

United Nations University – Our World. states:

“Meat consumption is on track to rise 75% by 2050, and dairy 65%, compared with 40% for cereals.”

Source: United Nations University – Our World.

 

Two recent peer-reviewed studies: The importance of reducing meat and dairy consumption for meeting world climate change targets and The importance of food-demand management for climate mitigation  found that:

 “without severe cuts in this trend, agricultural emissions will take up the entire world’s carbon budget by 2050, with livestock a major contributor. This would mean every other sector, including energy, industry and transport, would have to be zero carbon, which is described as “impossible”. The Chatham House report concludes: “Dietary change is essential if global warming is not to exceed 2°C.”

Source:

 

cowspiracy.com states:

“Livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, or 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.”

Source: cowspiracy.com

Animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation.

Source: cowspiracy.com

 

2. Animal Welfare

Make a stance against animal farming. Animals are sentient beings that have emotions and social emotions

Source: “An HSUS Report: The Welfare of Animals in the Veal Industry”

 

3. Water Conservation

It takes somewhere between 3 to 15 times more water to produce animal protein than it does to produce plant protein

 

4. Soil Conservation

When legumes, grains and vegetables are planted efficiently the topsoil becomes more fertile.  Less agricultural resources are used than the meat industry. In fact, its a positive effect on the land, rather than a negative effect.

 

5. Cancer

The world health organisation has linked processed meats to cancer

Here is a quote from the cancer council of Australia:

 

“The World Health Organization has classified processed meats including ham, bacon, salami and frankfurts as a Group 1 carcinogen (known to cause cancer)

eating processed meat increases your risk of bowel and stomach cancer. Red meat, such as beef, lamb and pork, has been classified as a Group 2A carcinogen which means it probably causes cancer.”

Source: cancer council of Australia

 

“Vegetarians show up to 40% less chance of developing cancer. Also, diets high in animal protein were associated with a 4-fold increase in cancer death risk compared to high protein diets based on plant-derived protein sources (figures based on 2014 study). The changes of contamination are high among meat eaters, on the flip side, consuming enough fruits and vegetables as part of a vegetarian diet will help to build up strong immunity and fight cancer cells.”

Source: goquii.com

 

6. Heart disease

The world health organisation has linked heart disease

 

Saturated fats contribute to diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, that cause seventy-two per cent of deaths every year around the world.
“Reduced intake of saturated fatty acids have been associated with a significant reduction in risk of coronary heart disease when replaced with polyunsaturated fatty acids or carbohydrates from whole grains,” the report notes.


“Dietary saturated fatty acids and trans-fatty acids are of particular concern,” Dr. Francesco Branco, Director of the Department of Nutrition for Health and Development for WHO, added in a statement. “High levels of intake are correlated with increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.”


A plant-based diet, low in saturated fats, however, has recently been recommended by doctors as lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease and early death. Former president of the American College of Cardiology, Kim Allan Williams, MD, spoke out in a recent presentation at Rush University Medical Centre about the benefits of a plant-based diet in reducing the risk of both cancer and cardiovascular disease.”

Source: Live Kindly

 

7. Healthy Colon

“Fibres present in a plant-based vegetarian diet helps to maintain a healthy colon by improving the good bacteria within it. That’s because fibre is what helps feed those healthy bacteria. It also helps to cleanse the colon when supplemented with optimal water intake. Why? Because fibre can act as a chimney sweeper and remove any excess waste. The risk of colon cancer and constipation decreases with a high fibre vegetarian diet. On the flip side, meats and poultry take time to digest and thus disrupts the natural balance in the body. They also don’t feed the friendly bacteria in our guts which are required to maintain a healthy gut lining.”

Source: goqii

 

8. Lowers the risk of diabetes

 

Consumption of meat and processed meat increases the risk of Type 2 Diabetes in both men and women. On the other hand, vegetarian diets rich in whole grains, nuts, legumes and fibres improves the glycaemic control in the people who already have diabetes.

Source: goqii

9. Help alleviate world hunger

 

A vegetarian diet can help alleviate world hunger.

“Over 10 pounds of plant protein are used to produce one pound of beef protein. [24] If these grains were fed to humans instead of animals, more food would be available for the 925 million people in chronic hunger worldwide. [105] Research from Cornell University found that the grain used to feed US livestock alone could feed 800 million people. [107]”
 
“According to a peer-reviewed 2003 Oxford University study of 37,875 healthy men and women aged 20-97, 5.4% of meat eaters were obese compared to 3% of vegetarians. Meat eaters had an average Body Mass Index (BMI) 8.3% higher than vegetarians. [11] Another 2006 meta-study that compiled data from 87 studies also found that vegetarian diets are associated with reduced body weight. [124]”

Source: procon.com

 

10. Healthy weight

 

A vegetarian diet promotes a healthy weight.

 

According to a peer-reviewed 2003 Oxford University study of 37,875 healthy men and women aged 20-97, 5.4% of meat eaters were obese compared to 3% of vegetarians. Meat eaters had an average Body Mass Index (BMI) 8.3% higher than vegetarians. [11] Another 2006 meta-study that compiled data from 87 studies also found that vegetarian diets are associated with reduced body weight. [124]”

Sourceprocon.com

 

11. Rich in antioxidants

A vegetarian diet is rich in fruits and vegetables and legumes which often contain beneficial antioxidants that protect the body from free-radicals caused by pollution, toxins, radiation and tobacco smoke.

 

CONS

1. Lacking in essential nutrients

Vegan diets are lacking some essential nutrients. They can also be lacking in a vegetarian diet unless specifically worked on as a focus

The Victorian Government Better Health site states:

“Some essential dietary requirements, which could be missing from a vegetarian diet if it isn’t carefully planned, include:
protein
minerals (including iron, calcium and zinc)
vitamin B12
vitamin D”

Therefore you need special attention to include foods rich in calcium, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, essential amino acids, Vitamin B-12.

Sources to include in your diet:

  • Calcium – milk (for non-vegans), Hard tofu, tahini, blackstrap molasses
  • Iron – blackstrap molasses
  • Omega-3 fatty acids – flaxseed oil, chia seeds
  • B12 – nutritional yeast, fish (for pescatarians)

B12 is probably the nutrient at most risk. Jackie Keller, a nutritionist and weight loss expert, says this about B12 for vegans on the self.com blog:

“Two in three vegetarians are vitamin B12 deficient, compared to one in 20 meat eaters, according to a peer-reviewed July 2003 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. [47]”

Source: the self.com blog

B12 sources:

  • Eggs (non-vegans)
  • Diary (non-vegans)
  • Nutritional yeast (unsure how bioavailable this is)
  • Marmite (unsure how bioavailable this is)
  • Seaweed (unsure how bioavailable this is)

It is recommended that vegetarians have their B12 blood test every 12 months.

Protein – Essential Amino Acids

There are 20 amino acids, 9 of which the body can’t manufacture. Therefore it is essential to eat these 9 amino acids.  What is a complete protein? One that contains all 9 amino acids.  While animal proteins are complete proteins (containing all essential amino acids) there are many good plant proteins

Below is a list of some plant proteins that contain all 9 amino acids.

  • Quinoa – 1 cup 8 grams of protein
  • Buckwheat – actually not a grain but part of the rhubarb family. 6 grams per 1 cup.
  • Hummus – check out our recipe here. 4.9 grams of protein per serving
  • Tempeh – a great source of soy if you buy non-GMO, preferably organic. 15 grams per ½ cup of tempeh. Check out our recipe for Tempe stir fry here
  • Pumpkin seeds – check out our trail mix here
  • Hemp seeds – just three tablespoons provide 15 grams of protein
  • Beans and brown rice – 7 grams per 1 cup. Check out our Vegetarian Chilli Con Carne recipe
  • Chia seeds –2 tablespoons provide 4 grams

Calcium sources

  • Asian greens e.g. bok choy, Chinese cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Firm Tempeh
  • Tahini
  • Dried Figs
Blackstrap molasses2 Tbsp400
Plant milks, calcium-fortified250 grams100-450
Tofu, processed with calcium sulphate*125 grams200-434
Tofu, processed with nigari*125 grams130-400
Collard greens, cooked1 cup268
Tempeh1 cup184
Kale, cooked1 cup177
Bok choy, cooked1 cup158
Tahini2 Tbsp128
Okra, cooked1 cup124

Source: The Vegetarian Resource Group

It’s also important to remember that you need to focus on bioavailable calcium

“Urinary calcium losses account for 50% of the variability in calcium retention. Of the nutritional factors thought to influence urinary calcium losses (protein, caffeine, and sodium intake), sodium appears to be the most important factor. Because sodium and calcium share some of the same transport systems in the proximal tubule”

source: The American journal of clinical nutrition
bioavailable calcium sources

Iron

  • Tofu
  • Legumes, dried beans, tempeh
  • Grains – brown rice, oats,
  • Green vegetables – such as broccoli, collard greens and Asian greens
  • Nuts – especially cashews
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Blackstrap molasses
Bioavailability

Consume foods high in vitamin C whilst eating iron-rich foods to increase bioavailability, The American journal of clinical nutrition: states: Ascorbic acid is the only main absorption enhancer in vegetarian diets, and iron absorption from vegetarian and vegan meals can be best optimized by the inclusion of ascorbic acid-containing vegetables


2.    Highly processed foods, additives and preservatives

Many meat substitutes are highly processed and contain additives and preservatives which are bad for your health. Don’t fall into the trap of eating unhealthy food if you become a vegetarian. Read the label and avoid highly processed foods and ingredients containing numbers or something you don’t recognise




Summary


In conclusion, there are many benefits to following a vegetarian diet.  However, there is a significant disadvantage and that is, the risk of nutrient deficiency of the vegetarian.

Perhaps there is another option, that will still address the benefits of a vegetarian diet but not lead to nutrient deficiency. Check out our healthy nutrition tips here.

Perhaps follow a pescatarian or part-time vegetarian diet, approximately 70% of the time.  Perhaps 5 out of 7 days?  I personally don’t like the term flexitarian but that seems to be the trendy term for this type of lifestyle.

Here are some additional resources that you might use for food for thought:

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