Vegetarian Diet: Everything you Need to Know
Written by Gurleen Khaira
Everyone has heard of vegetarianism, and most people likely know someone who is vegetarian since statistics highlight that 3.2% of adults in the USA are vegetarian- that’s 7.8 million people in the USA alone! But what does a vegetarian diet actually entail?
Firstly, we should clarify the different types of vegetarian diets: Vegan diet- no animal products consumed - ie no meat, fish, poultry or dairy Lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet- no fish, meat, or poultry, but allows dairy Pescetarian diet- no meat and poultry, but allows for fish and usually allows for dairy
People may choose to adopt a vegetarian diet for numerous reasons. Traditionally, it was more so religious reasons and ethical concerns around animal rights that prompted people to become vegetarian. However, the growing concern around global warming and climate change has inspired more people to consider a vegetarian diet since it induces fewer consequences on the environment compared to animal farming. The health benefits of a vegetarian diet are also a key reason why people choose to adopt this diet.
Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet:
Weight loss- many studies highlight that people on a vegetarian diet can lose more weight than those on a non-vegetarian diet. In fact, one study of 38,000 people found that vegetarians had a lower BMI than non-vegetarians.
Reduce cancer risk- whilst the research around this is not 100% clear, there are some studies which suggest that adopting a vegetarian diet can help to reduce the risk of certain cancers.
Help with blood sugar levels- many studies recognize a positive relationship between adopting a vegetarian diet and stabilizing blood sugar levels. By improving blood sugar levels, the benefits of a vegetarian diet are found to extend to preventing diabetes. A study of 2,918 people found that adopting a vegetarian diet decreased the risk of diabetes by 53% over five years.
Better heart health- many studies have found that vegetarian diets can reduce the levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol in the bloodstream. This is the cholesterol that can cause blockages in the arteries which can lead to cardiovascular disease, so by reducing the levels of these ‘bad cholesterols’, a vegetarian diet can boost heart health. Due to the brain-heart connection, having better heart health often results in better brain health, and contributes towards healthy ageing.
Costs of a Vegetarian Diet
May result in nutritional deficiencies- meats provide our body with proteins and nutrients like zinc and iron, and without eating these meats, it means your body may have lower levels of core nutrients.
Lower levels of creatine- creatine is an amino acid used by muscles. It is found in fish and meat, and since vegetarians do not eat these, then they have lower levels of creatine.
However, these disadvantages can be easily overcome by ensuring you have a vegetarian diet rich in vegetables, nuts and tofu. These foods can replenish the body of core nutrients and protein.