Diet has always played an important part of our body’s health. Deciding on a diet that is balanced and healthy is essential. Society promotes many options about eating foods that could be easily confused. Many people have debated whether to become a meat-eater or vegetarian. A person’s health is affected by both diets. One option for the person would be adopting the vegetarian diet. The vegetarian diet would be beneficial because it could help people lose weight, help the environment, live longer, and reduce the risk of chronic disease. Because of the health benefits associated with this lifestyle, a vegetarian diet is the best choice.
With the typical stereotype definition of a vegetarian diet, people usually think the diet excludes meat like beef, fish, or poultry from the diet; however, vegetarian diets can vary in what foods the person wants to include and exclude from their diet. Five different types of vegetarian diets include: lacto-vegetarian, ovo-vegetarian, lacto-ovo vegetarian, pescatarian, and vegan. Lacto-vegetarian diets do not eat fish, meat, eggs, and poultry along with any foods that contain those ingredients. The ovo-vegetarian diet excludes seafood, poultry, meat, and dairy products, but accepts eggs. The lacto-ovo vegetarian diet does not eat fish, poultry, and meat, but they can consume eggs and dairy products. The pescatarian diet excludes dairy, eggs, poultry, and meat, but allow fish. Last, but not least, the vegan diet does not consume poultry, meat, fish, dairy and egg products and any food that contains the products (1). A vegetarian diet overall generally does not consume fish, meat, or poultry. The vegetarian diet is plant-based and contains natural foods such as: fruits, nuts, vegetables, grains, and seeds. Some vegetarian diets can consume dairy products, eggs, and other nutrient-dense foods (2). If a person would to plan their own vegetarian diet, a plan with healthy plant-based foods, like vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and legumes and nuts would be the ideal decision. People should also try to avoid drinking sugary drinks and fruit juices, along with eating refined grains (1). A vegetarian diet is just like any other diet the media tries to post on television. The diet will work and be healthy if all parts of the food pyramid are fulfilled.
Scientists have found a relationship between reduced chronic diseases and the vegetarian diet. Chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease can all be reduced by implementing a vegetarian diet; however, non-vegetarians have higher bone density than those eating this special diet (3). Eating a plant-based vegetarian diet can help the body by providing high quality nutrients. An inverse relationship has been shown between the vegetarian diet and cardiovascular disease, total mortality, and cancer. The results from five prospective cohort studies explain how heart disease was twenty-four percent lower with vegetarians than non-vegetarians. Prostate and colon cancers along with just overall cancer death had lower rates among vegetarians than omnivores. Reduced risk factors of hypertension, arthritis, and diabetes were also shown. Scientists raise the question of as to why the disease percentage is lower because of the presence of certain plant foods or lack of meat; however, consuming large amounts of specific plant nutrients can help raise the health of all people on the vegetarian diet (4). People consuming the vegetarian diet overall receive more nutrients because of the consumption of healthier more natural foods compared to the average omnivore diet.
Non-vegetarians have a higher risk of dying from diabetes compared to vegetarians. Different plant foods that are low in glycemic index and have high fiber provide benefits that prevent diabetes. Foods like legumes, whole grains, and beans all have low glycemic index that greatly affect the insulin and blood glucose levels by forty percent. Foods high in fiber like beans give the body the feeling of fulness which indirectly reduces the change of obesity, a big factor for type two diabetes. Vegetarian diets are frequently recommended for people with diabetes because plant proteins do not alter the blood flow, unlike animal protein. The special diet helps restore and protect for people with or at risk of diabetes (4).
The more restrictive each diet becomes, the more challenging it is for a person to receive all the right nutrients for the body. Ingredients that are lacking in the vegetarian diets include calcium, vitamin D, Vitamin B-12, and protein. Simply eating normal sources of these vitamins would include drinking milk and eating animal products. With calcium, people maintain and build strong bones and teeth. The highest source of calcium is found in dairy foods and milk; however, dark green vegetables like broccoli, kale, and turnip are calcium enriched when eaten in large quantities. Vitamin D also plays a vital role in bone health. Vitamin D is found within cow’s milk, margarines, and cereals. Without the source of milk, people are required to take a vitamin D supplement when eating the vegetarian diet. Vitamin B-12 is required in order to avoid anemia and to produce red blood cells Vitamin B-12 is found entirely in products from animal. Receiving the vitamin in a vegetarian diet would be extremely difficult. The shortage of vitamin B-12 could go unnoticed in vegetarian people that could lead to severe problems. People on the vegetarian diet must take different vitamin supplements to satisfy the body’s needs. Protein helps the body maintain strong bones, organs, muscles, and healthy skin. An easy fix would be to eat protein; however, good sources of protein is found in dairy products and eggs. Some plants rich in protein include: seeds, whole grains, nuts, and lentils (1). A vegetarian person has specific downfalls that the diet does not always provide. Drinking milk and eating meat, poultry, and fish could solve the problem, but a vegetarian diet does have different supplements for a person. Overall, a diet where people eat, and drink animal products is not necessarily more beneficial than the vegetarian diet.
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