Although vegetarianism is by no means a new concept, there seems to be much debate about the effects of meatless diets on our health. And, while some people like to highlight the many health benefits of vegetarian diets, others point out their shortcomings, especially when it comes to getting the right nutrients. Obviously, there is some truth to both of these standpoints. So, what are the pros and cons of vegetarianism?
The Pros – Weight Control and Disease Protection
Vegetarian diets are traditionally low in fats and can help fight obesity. An Oxford study compared the body mass index of four diet groups – meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans – and found that vegetarians had significantly lower BMI than meat-eaters.
Research shows that vegetarian diets can protect against cardiovascular diseases, while vegan diets can also offer protection against high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Both vegetarian and vegan diets seem to play a role in cancer prevention, as well as reduce total mortality.
The Cons – Possible Nutritional Deficiencies
We can’t talk about the pros and cons of vegetarianism without mentioning the nutritional qualities of meat. Known as the best source of protein, meat is also rich in other valuable nutrients like iron, zinc and many vitamins.
A study by The University of Texas Medical Branch explored the effects of a high-protein diet and found that a higher protein intake has many benefits. Research shows that substituting meat-based proteins with plant-based ones might be a difficult task. Furthermore, certain nutrients, like vitamin B12, are only found in animal-based foods, such as eggs, poultry, and dairy products.
As you can see, there are many pros and cons of vegetarianism. But most nutritionists will agree that a balanced diet, rich in meat, fruits and vegetables is the best way to stay healthy. Keep in mind, however, that you should consume red meat only in modest quantities – it’s best if you stick to low-fat, lean meats like fish and poultry.