Most of us nowadays are already being more conscious with their health and because of this, and they go being a vegetarian wherein they do not eat meat, poultry, and fish instead, they mainly eat fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, seeds, and nuts. But, being a vegetarian has its own advantages and at the same time disadvantages in which some of the vegetarians are not aware of which ends up to a non-healthy lifestyle.
Vegetarians are classified into three groups according to the American Dietetic Association (ADA) namely: the Vegans or the Total Vegetarians who doesn’t’t include meat products in their diet; the Lactovegetarians who exclude meat, poultry, fish, and eggs but include dairy products in their diet; and the Lacto-ovovegetarians who doesn’t’t include meat, poultry, and fish but include dairy products and eggs in their diet.
According to the article “Being a vegetarian,” vegetarians get proper nutrition and they get important vitamins and minerals the body needs such as the following:
Protein. ADA (as cited in Being a vegetarian) has said that it is not necessary to combine specific foods within a meal in order to complete the amino acids and proteins found in plant foods such as whole grains, lentils, beans, tofu, low-fat dairy products, nuts, seeds, eggs, and peas.
Calcium. As recommended by ADA (cited in Being a vegetarian), at least 1000mg of calcium should be consumed by adults 19-50 years-old which is equivalent to three cups of milk or yogurt and vegetarians can get sufficient amounts of fat-free dairy products such as milk, yogurt, cheese, and in plant foods including spinach, mustard, broccoli, beans, sunflower seeds, and calcium-rich cereals.
The article also added: Vitamin D which aids in the absorption of calcium which is consumed by vegetarians through soy-milk products; Iron which can be get from cereals, dried fruits, pure juice, black strap, molasses, pumpkin seeds, and soy-bean nuts; and Vitamin B-12 which are being taken up by vegetarians from eggs and some also take multivitamins and mineral supplements to supply their need of B-12.
According also to the article Top 10 Advantages of going Vegetarian by Kshipra Bansal (2014), vegetarians get the following benefits and advantages as they choose being a vegetarian.
Bansal (2014) said that being a vegan helps reduce your body weight since non-vegetarian diet contains larger quantities of fats compared to a vegetarian diet which only contains less-cholesterol meals such as milk, fruits, and vegetables in replace of meat which is therefore, results to less chances of being infected with weight-related ailments. She also stated that a vegetarian meal can enrich the look and texture of your hair, nails, and skin.
Vegetarians are also expected to have longer life expectancy according to Bansal (2014) for their body are only consuming natural food free from hormones, toxins, and chemicals which makes them have an allowance of 5-10 years compared to a non-vegetarian diet which is incomplete in phytochemicals, fiber, and certain vitamins making them more prone to health problems and may live shorter. She also added that being a vegan makes you happy for it creates an aura of happiness around you, it lowers incidence of depression and anxiety and overall, it saves your money (for a vegetarian diet is much more cheaper than those of the non-vegetarians’), keeps you away from disease, increase your durability, reduces your weight, and makes you look better.
However, some articles are opposing the idea regarding the advantages of being a vegetarian. One of these articles is the Disadvantages of being a Vegetarian by Jason Ladock which states that vegans lack these nutrients and minerals necessary for the body:
He said that one of this is protein which makes up the “building blocks” (para. 4) of our body and that vegetarians claim that they can still get enough protein from eggs, beans, and broccoli well in fact, protein in vegetables and plants are not the same as the amino acids we get from meat. Ladock also said that in order for our body to get enough amino acids, it needs the right balance of IAAs and DAAs (Indispensable and Dispensable Amino Acids) and BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids) coming from animals necessary for the structure of muscles and lack of protein means we are slower to heal wounds, skin looks more dull and unhealthy, struggle to develop muscle tissue, digestion suffers (for digestive enzymes comes from amino acids) and vegetarians will eat more carbohydrates in order to replace the lost protein which then leads to weight gain. He even added the logic that “Humans are made up of meat. Therefore when we eat meat, it will already be easy for our body to convert it into useful protein compared to when we eat plants and vegetables which is obviously not meat, then it would take more time for our body to convert it to usable proteins” (para. 7).
Oils, particularly Omega 3 fatty acid also are another mineral vegans lack according to Ladock for we also get these from meat which helps us break down and utilize protein and is also useful to the brain and for preventing the damage caused by free radicals which causes cancer. He also stated that Vitamin B12 is also another vitamin we get from meat and deficiency of this may cause nerve damage, low energy, and problems utilizing calcium which leads to osteoporosis and is also significant for brain damage.
Ladock also said that being a vegetarian affects the lifestyle of oneself for you will miss a lot of food just like eating on a restaurant or a fast food chain wherein vegetable dishes are often served making you eat less or nothing at all; another example also is when you go around your friend’s house and knowing that you’re a vegetarian, you might limit what they are supposed to cook and they will be forced to go out and buy special ingredients just to host you.
Another article also that talks about the disadvantages of being a vegetarian is the Side Effects of becoming Vegetarian by Judd Hardler (2012) which argues the factors thrown by the vegetarians to the non-vegetarians.
According to Hardler (2012), one of these factors is the Low Cholesterol levels which is according to the Oxford Vegetarian study of 5000 vegans, vegetarians have lower cholesterol levels than non-vegetarians but the American Heart Association recommend to keep a total of cholesterol levels under 200; however, another study by the Honolulu Heart Program demonstrates that having extremely low levels of cholesterol may lead to an early death.
Hardler (2012) also said that Increased risk of Colorectal Cancer is another factor in which vegans assume that heavy meat eaters would have a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer but according to the review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, study shows that incidences of all cancers fused are lower in vegetarians than in non-vegetarians, but among the incidences, it is higher in vegetarians than in non-vegetarians and that there are 39% higher incidence of colorectal cancer in vegetarians.
At the same time, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) (as cited in the article Food Pyramids and Plates: What should you really eat?), we have this what we call The Healthy Eating Pyramid which serves as our guide for getting the proper nutrition.
The pyramid’s structure constitutes healthy foods we can consume in order to be healthy which includes: Whole Grains— as carbs for our energy; Healthy Fats and Oils— to improve cholesterol levels; Vegetables and Fruits— decreases chances of heart attacks, stroke, and could even lower blood pressure and could protect us from any types of cancers; Nuts, Seeds, Beans, and Tofu— good sources of protein and fiber; Fish, Poultry and Eggs— also a good source of protein and omega-3 from fish; Dairy— for calcium and Vitamin D; Red Meat, Processed Meat, and butter— also important but limit for about twice a week; Refined Grains, White Bread, Rice and Pasta— also a good source of carbs but limit for they also contribute to higher blood sugar levels; Multivitamin with extra Vitamin D— to lower the risk of colon and breast cancer; Alchohol is also included for it lowers the risk of heart disease but just drink moderately.
USDA also promotes The Healthy Plate (as shown in the diagram) which shows that we have to include vegetables (half of our plate), quarter of it for whole grains, another quarter for protein and we may also include healthy fats, water, coffee, or tea to complete a healthy meal.
Therefore, this only means that in order to have a balanced diet, it is not necessary that one should be a vegetarian because in my opinion, it takes the combination of glow, grow, and go foods to sum up a healthy lifestyle and not just pure vegetables and fruits only.