The Benefits Of Being Vegetarian And Achieving A Balanced Diet

For vegetarians, it can be challenging to maintain a balanced diet since meat and other ingredients are removed from meal plans. There are a lot of nutrient deficiencies that arise due to sticking to a plant-based diet, but those are easier to fix than one might think. But first, it’s essential to know the benefits of switching from a carnivorous lifestyle. 

By Gurleen Bajwa


For vegetarians, it can be challenging to maintain a balanced diet since meat and other ingredients are removed from meal plans. There are a lot of nutrient deficiencies that arise due to sticking to a plant-based diet, but those are easier to fix than one might think. But first, it’s essential to know the benefits of switching from a carnivorous lifestyle. 

 

Being vegetarian means giving up red meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish, crustaceans, and sometimes animal products. Instead, the core ingredients for vegetarians will be grains, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables, and dairy products. There are more minor differences here, too. For instance, being vegan would include no dairy products or other animal by-products such as honey. On the other hand, Vegetarians do consume certain dairy products and/or eggs. 

 

There are many reasons to make the switch, and the most common and popular one is that it is healthier for you. Firstly, heart health is a leading cause of death, especially in first-world countries; vegetarians may be almost one-third less likely to suffer severe consequences from heart diseases. Of course, this still depends on the food consumed, but removing processed meat goes a long way. By eliminating meat, you also reduce the risk of certain cancers, such as colon, rectum, prostate, pancreatic, and stomach cancer.

 

Additionally, a plant-based diet also lowers blood pressure and cholesterol. The reduction in cholesterol also leads to the added benefit of a reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes, unlike Type 1 diabetes, can be acquired, and the chances of that occurring increase as you age. It is a direct result of fatty tissues, which are reduced in a plant-based diet that limits the intake of saturated fats and cholesterol. Another health benefit is weight management. It’s important to remember that simply being vegetarian does not cause weight loss—it just makes it easier to cut down on empty calories and fatty tissues. Lastly, brain health also benefits from switching diets. This might seem counterintuitive since most vegetarians do not consume omega-3 Fatty Acids (found in fish), which have an extensively documented history of benefitting the brain. However, there are other benefits. Studies have shown that plant-based foods, due to the presence of polyphenols in grains, correlate to reduced rates of dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other cognitive impairments. 

 

However, despite all of these benefits, as mentioned before, several nutrients are missing from a vegetarian diet. The most significant ones include vitamin B12, vitamin D, protein, iron, calcium, zinc, and, as mentioned before, omega-3 fatty acids. 

 

Starting with the vitamins, previous studies have shown us that vegetarians can be at a high risk of vitamin B12 deficiency. The best remedy is through supplements or consuming enriched foods such as soy products, breakfast cereals, and bread. Vitamin D deficiency is more difficult to fix since its primarily derived from non-plant-based sources. Our skin can also produce Vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, but in countries with little sunlight or winter, it isn’t enough to overcome the deficiency. Thus, the most practical solution is supplements. 

 

Protein is the most apparent missing nutrient in vegetarian diets since its heavily related to meat. But there are plenty of alternatives, including green vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and lentils. Calcium, zinc, and iron are much less limiting in terms of foods that contain them. For iron, vegetarians can turn to tofu, whole grain cereals, and dried foods such as apricots. Similarly, zinc can also be found in whole grains and dairy products, nuts, and beans. Calcium is anything from chia seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds to broccoli, seaweed, and leafy greens. Lastly, while omega 3 fatty acids, like calcium, can be found in chia seeds (as well as flaxseeds, walnuts, and kidney beans), they can also be supplemented.  

 

Switching from a carnivorous diet to a plant-based one can be a daunting task for many, and it’s accompanied by concerns about maintaining a well-balanced diet that allows the consumption of all of the necessary nutrients and vitamins. However, as we have seen, the health benefits of switching far out weight the inconveniences of findings vitamin/nutrient alternatives. Additional benefits, such as the lowered environmental cost, are just the cherry on top. Considering that, there is nothing really to lose.

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