Many people follow a vegetarian diet as an effort to improve their health or reduce the risk of disease. There are so many benefits of a plant-based diet that have been documented. However, keep in mind that not all vegetarian diets are nutritious. There are many things to understand first before you follow this diet.
The type of food that you choose should include in your diet plan, even what foods you avoid as well – these things will make a big difference related to the benefits that you will get. A vegetarian diet full of processed foods will be less likely to give you health benefits rather than a full diet by consuming vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes.
When you think to adopt this diet plan, then you have to consider all pros and cons of the vegetarian diet to ensure that this is the right eating plan for you based on your health condition.
The pros of a vegetarian diet
One of the biggest benefits of a vegetarian diet is that there are some different variants that you can decide. The most common type was Lacto-Ovo vegetarian. People will avoid animal products and seafood, but they still consume eggs, and dairy as well. Ovo vegetarian allows you to consume eggs, but you need to avoid dairy products, seafood, and meat. Then Lacto vegetarian allows you to consume dairy products, but you need to avoid meat, eggs, and seafood.
In a healthy vegetarian diet, then it is highly advised to eat legumes, grains, seeds, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. So, you have to be careful when choosing your meal. This plant-based diet gives you a body with a lot of vitamins and necessary minerals to improve your health and lower the risk of chronic diseases as well.
There is also research that evaluates both vegan and vegetarian diets, researchers found that these two groups have lowered the risk of cardiometabolic factors, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers as well. Another study has confirmed this finding and it has found that consuming plant-based foods also helps treatments and management of diverticular disease, high blood pressure, and eye cataracts as well.
There is much evidence that a vegetarian diet can help you to avoid some conditions, such as kidney stones, and gallstones. A study in 2019 has been published in the Journal Nutrients with more than 4800 participants, and it can be summarized that lowering the cholesterol level, a vegetarian diet, successfully reduced the risk of gallstone disease.
Then a study in 2014 has been investigating the effects of different diets on kidney stone formation found that a balanced Ovo-vegetarian diet can protect against that condition as long as there is a sufficient calcium intake. It is better to consult with your health consultant first.
You can choose a wider food variety
An American standard diet was called an omnivore diet since no food has been excluded. However, many people often consume an omnivore diet to be used to the habit of eating the same foods every day. As a result, they will eat a few foods or specific types of food only.
You can take a look at the traditional American dinner that usually includes meat such as a steak, a flavorful side dish such as rice, and maybe a bit of veggie.
Dairy products are often used as toppings, ingredients, and side dishes. However, on a vegetarian diet, many traditional foods are inappropriate
Therefore, you have to start your diet, you should be more creative and try some experiments with familiar foods. For example, you replace meat with a hearty grain such as brown rice can be your foundation in your meal. To fill up your plate, then you can add more veggies. Of course, when you choose being a vegetarian does not guarantee you to get this benefit.
Even a vegetarian can stack in a food rut and eat the same foods every day. Switching to a vegetarian diet may give you the motivation to experiment with new food and healthier food options.
Some researchers have been investigating the correlation between vegan or vegetarian diets and longevity. Some researchers have found that those who follow healthy plant-based diets will live longer than those who consumed meat.
Even a large study in 2014 has published that vegetarians are 12 percent less likely to die from all causes when compared to non-vegetarians. But these results from studies can be a bit tricky to interpret since there are some pros and cons as well. It is all depending on your health condition as well. Other factors have played a big role in their longevity patterns as well.
Other research has suspected the link between longevity and plant-based diets, there are many findings of a positive association. But it is a bit tricky to know whether this diet or related factors can boost longevity. For example, those who decided to choose a vegan diet often practice mindful eating patterns, manage their stress with meditation, and exercise regularly. These habits can play a big role in providing health benefits.
The weight control
We all know that plant-based eating often relates to losing weight. This research has found that those who follow a vegetarian diet usually consume less calorie than an omnivore diet. Researches also find that most of the restrictive variation in the vegan diet contains a lower calorie intake.
There is also broad evidence published in 2017 found that a plant-based diet is an effective tool in managing and avoiding obesity and overweight as well. If you are trying to reach or maintain your healthy weight, then your lower calorie intake will be linked with vegan eating can help you to reach your desired goal as well.
Lowering your food costs
Choosing a vegetarian diet can help you to reduce food costs. However, the total food costs are finally depending on what food you choose in your meal plan. Seafood and meat are usually more expensive and become a major component in their total grocery bill as well. Fast foods and snacks which are not in a vegetarian diet can be pricey as well. So, when you remove these foods from your diet, then you will remove substantial food costs as well.
Legumes and grains are cheaper and budget-friendly as well. If you purchase produce in season, then you can cut more your food cost. Of course, vegetarian foods and meat alternatives can be costly, but they are likely to cost less total amount than a diet that contains more animal-based products.
The impact on our environment
There is an increased concern in the environmental community about the impact of livestock practices on this earth. So, many people prefer to eliminate meat and eat vegetarian foods since they feel that this decision is better for the planet.
The farming of plants will produce nuts, seeds, fruits, grains, and vegetables that need less water and soil resources than meat, dairy, and poultry productions. Cows will produce higher greenhouse gasses than plants, this thing makes some people believe that removing dairy and meat products in their foods will reduce the risk of global warming.
There are some studies also suggesting that the variety of vegan diet is better for this planet than other foods. So, if you follow this diet, you can bring good impacts on this planet.
Your body gets complete nutrition
Getting the recommended intake of both micronutrients and macro will be easier rather than a restrictive vegan diet. Although there are some concerns related to nutritional deficiencies on the vegetarian diet, there are some substantial resources available to help you meet nutritional needs.
For example, the U.S Department of Health, USDA, and Human Services also gives a healthy vegetarian eating pattern as part of a diet guide from 2015 to 2020 for Americans. This guide provides them with the recommendations of the intake from different food groups, such as beans, leafy veggies, legumes, starchy veggies, and so on. The recommended amount is available for daily intake from 1000 to 3200 calories each day.
By following this guide, you will get daily minerals, vitamins, and macronutrients that your body needs. Just like other diets, you may lack nutrients if you do not get a balanced diet. Ensure that you always get a sufficient amount that you need.
You understand about the ethical treatment of animals
Since there is no animal has been killed to produce vegetarian foods, there are many people who choose this food pattern since they put more concern related to animal cruelty. But, those who choose to eat dairy and egg products may still face some issues related to the treatment of cows and chickens.
There are many animal right activists who prefer to eat vegan foods to promote the ethical treatment of animals. However, you should know that the less-restrictive vegetarian option still can lower the overall impact of the animal population as well.
The cons of a vegetarian diet
Although the vegan and vegetarian diet offers you some benefits, there are some cons as well. You can check them below.
You get fewer food options
If you have been used to consuming traditional foods, such as seafood, meat, and other animal products, then you will find that a vegetarian diet has limited you at first. Of course, you need time to adjust yourself to this food style if you used to make meals around bacon for your breakfast, beef at dinner, and so on. However, there are some resources to help you learn to find and make satisfying meals without using animal foods.
Many vegetarians found that there are more options not only from grocery stores and restaurants, even when you eat with your family or friends in your home. Plant-based dishes have been encouraged by health professionals for meat-eaters, so it is not uncommon to see hearty dishes that are vegetarian-friendly.
You should know that a well-rounded vegetarian diet can provide you with sufficient nutrition. But some key nutrients are commonly found in animal foods which may be lacking in your vegetarian diet if the diet does not include a variety of healthy meals. Some nutrients that may be lacking in the diet include Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, calcium, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Some studies also show that even if zinc intake tends to be lower than vegetarian, their bodies prefer adopting the lower level through the increased retention and absorption of the mineral. Many researchers also note that a well-planned diet can provide sufficient zinc through plant sources, such as tempeh, tofu, grains, seeds, nuts, fortified breakfast cereal products, and dairy products.
It may be less filling
Some studies also found that vegetarian diets tend to be lower in fat, calories, and protein rather than omnivore diets. Foods that contain high fat and protein can help you to feel full and satisfied when you have done eating. But there are some carbohydrate-rich foods such as refined grains that have digested faster and it may make you feel hungry soon after you have meals or snacks.
The result is when you switch to a vegetarian diet, you may feel less filling and get hungry soon. However, some careful food selections can help you to boost satiety. Whole grains and hearty beans contain high fiber and help you to feel full longer. Snacks that contain nuts or seeds also give you fat and protein to improve feelings of satisfaction after you eat.
It can be less convenience
Although plant-based foods are easier to get, they follow a strict vegetarian diet that still needs to read the ingredient list, especially if those who decide to eat processed foods. Foods that you consider to be free from animal products may contain whey, gelatin, casein, or other foods. This is also important to read the nutrient label and choose foods that contain main minerals and vitamins to avoid nutritional deficiencies as well. So, it is always better to consult with your health provider or professional to know your health condition before adjusting this vegetarian diet.