The diet that is considered to be most healthy and nutritious is the vegetarian diet. It is less in calories and helps you have a lean and strong build. It has several advantages but like every other diet it has its share of pros and cons as well with more pros than cons.
5 per cent of the population of the United States is vegetarian. This comprises of almost 16 million Americans with 50 per cent of them being vegan. In recent times, since 2009, the number of vegetarians in the United States has doubled from 2.5 per cent to 5 per cent.
There is information with data that shows that more Americans are eating vegetarian food. In fact 33 per cent of the populations aren’t completely committed to a vegetarian lifestyle but they are slowly seeking vegetarian meals.
So, what is the advantage of a vegetarian diet and what are the disadvantages? Read on to find out the pros and cons of the vegetarian diet.
The Pros of Vegetarianism
Eat Generous Portions of Healthy and Nutritious Foods
When you take a look at the vegetarian food pyramid, you will realize that there is no way that vegetarian diet is inadequate. There are so many varieties of food that enables you to sustain to your healthiest. At the base of the pyramid one can find the most important cereals, which come in form of bread, whole grains, rice, pasta, and cereal, which are enlisted for consumption.
Dieticians and doctors recommend that to get a good dose of healthy nutrients vegetarians ought to eat grains in large quantities with about 6 to 11 servings every day. Vegetables need to be eaten with three servings everyday and 2 to 4 servings of fruits were also recommended per day.
In the vegetarian food pyramid, dairy, which is low in fat and other dairy products, are listed at the very top. This implies that milk, cheese, yogurt, cream must be eaten with two to three servings a day. It is preferable to use low fat dairy products like skimmed milk or no fat milk.
Along with dairy and dairy products are also items like nuts, seeds and legumes, which should also be eaten only in moderate quantities of about 2 or 3 servings every day. At the very top of the vegetarian food pyramid are fatty foods like vegetable oils and nut oils. These must be used sparingly and it is best to have very small doses of fat in your diet. It is better to use oils such as olive oil, soy oil and so on but even then it is best to use them sparingly.
A Quick Summation of the Primary Benefits
Enlisted below is a quick summation of the benefits associated with vegetarian living.
“Pros” Associated with Vegetarian Diets Include:
- There is a lower chance of occurrence of gallstones, kidney disease and rheumatoid arthritis; and
- Nutritional intake (per the aforementioned pyramid) that is closer to the nationally recommended daily servings.
- The risk of specific types of cancer is reduced
- There is a lower risk of hypertension and adult onset Type 2 diabetes.
Plant based diets provide a lot of energy. This is because of the high nutrient content. Plan based foods are fibrous and are packed with vitamins and minerals that increases your energy.
Some of the Cons
There are certain negative aspects for a vegetarian diet every though it is a very healthy way of living. For example:
- There is a concern for calcium deficiency when vegetarians don’t take care to make proper substitutions.
- Vitamin B-12, iron, and zinc, all nutrients that are best absorbed from meat sources and hence vegan diets can be low on these but that isn’t a problem because supplements and viable plant food sources are available for these.
- Vegetarian diets are usually low in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish.
- Certain phases of pregnancy (such as lactation) may require special attention.
- Vegetarian or vegan lifestyles are usually used to mask eating disorders and the like.
Myths Associated with the Diet
Myths are associated in every aspect. There are several myths that are based on plant-based diets like vegetarian and vegan diets. Here are some of the myths associated with them.
For example, vegetarian diets do not supply enough protein is a usual statement that non-vegetarians voice out.
This is not true. Meat isn’t the most viable and best choice of protein as it contains huge amounts of animal fats and the body takes time to break down animal meat over plant protein. Vegetarian diets offer healthy protein alternatives, which contain all the essential amino acids that are related to tissue repair and tissue building. Chickpeas, legumes, pulses and soybeans are best sources of protein and are very low in fat. Kidney beans, black beans and quinoa are other sources of protein with little to no fat, as compared to meat sources, which have a high content of unhealthy saturated fat.
Vegetarian or vegan diet is typically, iron and calcium deficient is another common myth.
This again is not entirely true, vegetarian diet encompasses of consuming lots of fruits and vegetables like spinach, broccoli, apricots, kiwis, beans, peas, collard greens, mushrooms, nuts like almonds, cashews, peanuts, prunes, mulberries etc which are rich sources of calcium and iron.
Protection against Cancer
Studies done by the World Cancer Research Fund has shown that the risk of developing cancer is lowered if one follows a vegetarian diet. A vegetarian diet also boosts energy and gives a better immune system and helps combat several types of diseases.
Umbelliferous vegetables and cruciferous vegetables such as dill, carrots and caraway, are all known to possess cancer-protective properties. Vegetarian foods are also more fibrous which helps fight cancer. Over that, the whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruits, and seasoning herbs like thyme, rosemary etc that are extensively used in vegetarian cuisine have cancer fighting properties as well.
The major drawback of vegetarian diet is the lack of the provision of the vitamin B-12 and this is an active ingredient in ensuring a smooth functioning of the central nervous system and the synthesis of DNA. However there are supplements that are created for vegetarians to consume to get this vitamin. Vegetarianism on the whole provides several benefits and advantages in terms of protecting the consumers from diseases.