Vegetarians can be unhealthy if they’re not careful. A lot of times, the only vegetarian dishes on the menu are processed and fattening.
Will you only eat food if a vegetarian meal is served your way? Your rationale may hinge on the horrific animal processing industry, personal religious/spiritual beliefs, to simply wanting to follow the latest fab fad. But diet is a key factor when it comes to longevity, and by excluding meat, you may be doing your body more harm than good. Each individual has specific needs; consider these before ruling out living like a carnivore.
“There are many new conscious ways of eating that seem to be a more altruistic form of calorie intake,” says Katy Clark, AKA Fit Chef Katy. “Your aim may be to bring you to a greater respect for the earth, but many of those styles of eating have … drawbacks.”
Dr. Dimitris Tsoukalas, M.D., author of How to Live 150 Years in Health, weighed in on the topic in a recent interview stating, “There is no full vegetarian model in nature. There are some, [mostly] Asian populations, that do well with a vegetarian-oriented diet with the addition of some light proteins, which means a diet that is based on fruits, vegetables, nuts, rice, and some fish and eggs. Each one of us has diverse needs. That’s why there are a lot of people and studies referring to benefits on all three basic diet approaches (vegetarian, Mediterranean and mainly animal protein diets).”
A strict vegetarian diet could come with more complications than you’d expect. According to chef Katy, one should consider these top reasons before altering your diet:
Top 5 Reasons To Rethink Your Vegetarian Meal
In the end, food’s primary purpose is to give the body energy. Without the pure proteins offered in healthy organic animal products such as lean meat, fish, and eggs, strict vegetarians may find themselves suffering from the inability to go the distance without snacking between standard eating times, increasing their overall food consumption, calorie intake, and on-going blood sugar levels.
“Contrary to popular belief,” says Dr. Neal Malik of Bastyr University, “most vegetarians do receive adequate nutrition from foods alone. The one exception appears to be vitamin B-12 (cobalamin). It’s somewhat of a myth that plant-based foods do not contain any vitamin B-12 – they actually do but it’s not in a form the body can use. Animal-based foods (meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, fish, etc.), on the other hand, contain an active (or “usable”) form of B-12. As a result, strict vegetarians that avoid most, if not all, animal-based foods may be at risk for a vitamin B-12 deficiency.”
This deficiency should not be overlooked. As it is, data from the Tufts University Framingham Offspring Study suggest that 40 percent of people between the ages of 26 and 83 have plasma B-12 levels in the low normal range – a range at which many experience neurological symptoms. Lack of B-12 causes several issues, including fatigue, lethargy, weakness, memory loss, and neurological and psychiatric problems. If you follow a vegetarian meal plan or are a vegan, you should take supplements to protect against deficiencies.
Causes of B-12 malabsorption include:
- intestinal dysbiosis
- leaky gut and/or gut inflammation
- atrophic gastritis or hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid)
- pernicious anemia (autoimmune condition)
- medications (especially PPIs and other acid-suppressing drugs)
- exposure to nitrous oxide (during surgery or recreational use)
Other critical nutrients to consider if you are only eating vegan or vegetarian meals include omega-3s — found in fatty fish — as well as minerals such as calcium, iron, iodine, zinc, and selenium.
- Weight Gain
There are a lot of unhealthy vegetarians and vegans out there. The new lifestyle is supposed to focus on fruits, vegetables, nuts, and quality complex carbs. Unfortunately, many turn to lots of pastas, breads, and desserts. If you are chowing down on vegan junk high in carbs, you are going to put on the pounds.
If you aren’t vigilant, it’s not difficult to lack in vital nutrients, vitamins, and proteins, which give you energy and help keep your metabolism stoked. Many first-time vegans reach for more processed foods like vegan cookies, chips, or even ‘ice cream’ and end up packing on the pounds instead.
As with any vegetarian diet, one must rely on a diet rich in foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and quality grains, which can be hard to find year-round, and quite expensive during the offseason. This adds to the complexity of a strict vegetarian diet, especially for those who are living off a budgeted income.
As with any diet, limiting your intake of foods makes it much more difficult to sustain a long-term healthy eating lifestyle. You might find yourself at a social meal or event where the only vegetarian options are bread and chips. And while many modern restaurants often offer an optional vegetarian menu, most people will find that picking out the right types of foods on a regular basis with such limited options can be quite a challenge. Even many of the trendy vegan restaurants don’t necessarily offer the most nutritious food options.
A Spoonful A Day Of Equilibrium, The Ultimate Superfood Blend, Is All You Need For Balance And Energy
While eating is a natural part of life, it is also a cycle by which your body communicates its needs, such as when you need more leafy greens, more iron, protein, or even salty foods. Dr. Dimitris Tsoukalas covers the topic in detail in his book, stating,
“As one truly listens to and perceives the messages of the body, one suddenly perceives when is the right time to rest, drink water, eat something salty on a hot day, one knows that eating salad, vegetables or a nice steak would make him or her feel better. One accepts his or her body’s cravings for nuts, fresh fish or fruits and one is able to identify something he or she ate or did that made him or her feel sick, tired, or caused a headache, heartburn and sore joints. Then, and only then, one could occasionally eat not so healthy food just for the freedom and pleasure of it.“
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, an evidence-based review showed that a vegetarian diet is associated with a lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease. Vegetarians also have lower blood pressure and lower rates of hypertension and type 2 diabetes than meat eaters.
Just know that if your vegetarian meal often consists of fries and a processed soy burger, you’re not going to be healthier than the person who eats organic lean bison burger along with an avocado.
While finding the right balance of lifestyle and diet is an important part of life — and many vegetarians are doing an excellent job staying healthy while living a more “conscious” existence — there are many who fail their body’s needs. It’s important to understand that becoming a strict vegetarian requires serious research, commitment, and understanding.
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