You can live a completely healthy life without eating any animal products. Eating vegetarian, especially vegan, presents a number of challenges, however. Understanding the basic pros and cons of a vegetarian diet will help you make the right choices in this area.
A vegetarian diet means different things to different people. Some vegetarians eat no meat or poultry, but eat fish, eggs and dairy. Others eliminate fish and eggs but use some milk, cheese and butter in recipes. Vegans use no animal products, including eggs, milk or cheese.
The advantages of a vegetarian diet include:
- Less saturated fat
- Less cholesterol
- No growth hormones or other chemicals in many commercially raised animals
- Fewer diet-related illnesses (heart attack, stroke, diabetes, cancer, poor cholesterol)
- Better weight control
- Saves money
The disadvantages of a vegetarian diet include:
•Possible nutrient deficiencies, including iron, protein, calcium, zinc, vitamin B-12 and Omega-3 fatty acids.
•Difficult to co-exist with non-vegetarian household members if you don’t cook
If you’re considering a vegetarian diet, start by reducing the amount of meat and poultry in your diet. Substitute fish and tofu for beef and chicken in dishes. Use low- or non-fat dairy in dishes, and reduce or eliminate eggs, (one egg contains more than 70 percent of your RDA for cholesterol).
Get iron from and soy and fortified cereals, calcium from leafy green vegetables dairy and fortified orange juice, protein from nuts and bean and Omega-3 fatty acids from fish like salmon, tuna, halibut, mackerel and sardines.
Be Kind to Animals?
Vegetarians may actually be responsible for more animal deaths than those who eat meat. In order to grow grains, fruits and vegetables, farmers need to plow and prepare their fields, then harvest the crops. This results in the deaths of many field creatures, including mice, vols, squirrels, rabbits, snakes and other animals. Researcher Steven Davis, a professor of animal science at Oregon State University, calculated that farming kills many more animals than commercial animal raising, although other academics have disputed his exact number. Unless you grow your own vegetables, a vegetarian diet does result in the killing of large numbers of animals. So there.