According to the statistics gathered by Vegetarian Resource Group, about six to eight million Americans stick with vegetarian diet. Moreover, another few million have either stopped or reduced red meat consumption, and approximately two million are vegans, who are the people who have eliminated any animal-based products from their menu.
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Therefore, as all kinds of vegetarian diets spread in society, there is a need to provide information about pros and cons of turning into a vegetarian for those who would like to consider such a move, but are not sure how it might affect their health and lifestyle in general.
Even though by definition vegetarians are people who don’t eat meat in any of its forms, including poultry and seafood, there are still some other eating patterns whose ‘owners’ consider themselves vegetarians, such as lacto vegetarians, who do not eat any meat, fish and eggs, but do consume dairy food; ovo vegetarians, who do not eat any meat, fish and dairy products, but do eat eggs; lacto-ovo vegetarians, who combine the two aforementioned diets, partial vegetarians, who eat either fish or poultry and vegans, who avoid any animal-based food.
While people turn to vegetarian diet for a number of reasons, such as health support, concerns about environment, demands of a religion, being unsure about quality of meat that derives from animals grown within hormones-using industry, or even inability to afford meat, there is still enough myths and uncertainties surrounding this dietary pattern. There are both advantages and disadvantages in leading vegetarian lifestyle, but it is still up to everyone to decide for themselves what to choose.
Reducing risk of obesity and certain diseases
As vegetarians normally eat more low-calorie and at the same time nutrient filling foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans etc., they are statistically less likely to become obese than people with high consumption rate of high-calorie fatty meats, butter, cheeses. This, consequently, leads to lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure and even some types of cancer, as Harvard Medical School states. However, there is still not enough research regarding long-term effects of vegetarian lifestyle on people’s general health.
Saving more lives and bringing considerable environmental benefits
As researchers from Oxford Martin School have found, adopting dietary patterns that include reduced meat consumption can save from 5.1 to 8.1 lives due to healthier approach to eating, and also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two-thirds, therefore leading to a cut of global warming and avoiding climate change related damage of approximately 1,5 trillion dollars, as well as significant money savings in healthcare and preventing money spend on lost working days, reduced productivity and informal care.
Possible nutrient deficiency
Certain nutrients required for our general well-being can be found in animal-based foods only. For that reason, it is necessary to follow one’s nutrients balance more closely. People who stick to vegetarian diet, especially stricter kinds of it, will have to pay closer attention to their levels of protein, iron, calcium, zinc, vitamin B12 and Omega-3 fatty acids. Plenty of food supplements containing these elements have been developed to help maintain these elements’ healthy level.
Necessity to carefully plan one’s diet
While meat eaters can pretty much afford less responsible approach to their daily nutrients intake, vegetarians do need to monitor whether they receive a necessary amount of elements their organisms need. It requires knowledge about certain nutrients’ amount in pretty much every product they consume and calculate those so that nutritional balance would be met. Not everyone is ready or willing to do that. Still, less strict vegetarian diets or even simply reduced meat consumption can take less effort and still bring benefits of a healthier, more conscious eating pattern.
Becoming a vegetarian – Health.harvard.edu