The number of people opting for a vegetarian or plant-based diet has significantly increased in recent years, as have our anxieties towards the condition of the planet. Though there are many different types of vegetarian diets, the regime generally results in abstaining from eating meat, poultry and fish, and generally stems from a desire to improve health, or make a more positive impact on the environment. If you’re considering becoming a vegetarian or simply want to know the facts, here’s the pros and cons of a vegetarian diet.
Types Of Vegetarian Diet
The vegetarian diet can be broken down into smaller categories depending on what specific foods a person consumes while following it. Here are some of the different types:
Lacto-ovo: A lacto-ovo vegetarian is someone who eats both eggs and dairy products, but excludes meat, poultry and fish (this is the most common type of vegetarianism).
Lacto: Lacto vegetarians eat dairy products, but do not eat eggs.
Ovo: An ovo vegetarian eats eggs but does not eat dairy products.
Pescatarian: Pescatarians eat fish in their diets but avoid all other types of meat.
Pollo-vegetarian: A pollo-vegetarian eats poultry but avoids all other meat and fish.
Flexitarian: Flexitarian is the term used to identify someone who mostly follows the vegetarian diet, yet occasionally includes meat, poultry and fish in their diets.
Vegan: The vegan diet is different from a vegetarian one, in that a vegan will not consume any animal products or by-products of an animal, such as eggs, dairy or honey.
Pros Of Vegetarianism
Kinder To the Environment
Due to the research that has been carried out in recent years, it’s become abundantly clear that livestock farming practices are creating a negative impact on the environment. The process of farming fruit, vegetables and grains require a significantly lower amount of land and water resources compared to the farming of meat, not to mention the greater amount of greenhouse gases released by farming cows compared to plants. With vegetarianism assisting in the reduction of global warming risks, the diet is certainly a kinder option for the planet.
Reduces Animal Cruelty
One of the main benefits of a vegetarian diet is its link to the ethical treatment of animals. Vegetarians (lacto-ovo) do not eat any animals in their diet, and it’s, therefore, a popular lifestyle choice for those with growing concerns regarding animal cruelty.
Vegetarian diets do not, however, relate to the treatment of animals within the dairy industry like the vegan diet does; though due to the firmer restrictions of veganism, many people find a vegetarian diet to be a great stepping-stone to reducing animal cruelty, before eliminating all animal products entirely.
Reduces The Risk of Diseases
So long as a vegetarian diet is kept healthy and balanced, evidence has shown that vegetarians can have a reduced risk of developing a variety of diseases. Because a plant-based diet involves a large consumption of food groups such as legumes, nuts, whole grains, fruit and vegetables, vegetarians may be able to reduce both their cholesterol and their risk of having a heart attack through eating foods that contain soluble fibre. Research has also shown the diet to reduce the likelihood of developing other diseases including type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, high blood pressure, asthma and cardiovascular diseases.
Could Reduce Your Food Bill
Depending on where and how often you shop, a vegetarian diet could help to reduce your weekly food bill and save you money. Foods such as meats, poultry and fish are typically expensive whether you buy them from major supermarket chains or independently, with seafood being especially costly due to both the high demand for the product and the more challenging production it requires. So long as you’re not buying branded mock meats, a lot of the foods that vegetarian diets are rich in (such as legumes and grains) are usually budget-friendly and can be bought in bulk to cut costs even further.
Cons Of Vegetarianism
Not Always Convenient
Though more and more businesses and restaurants are offering plant-based alternatives, eating a vegetarian diet is certainly less convenient compared to eating all food groups. Not only can dining out be a challenge due to the limited meat-free options on menus, but vegetarians also need to be conscious of hidden ingredients that contain animal products. For this reason, vegetarians must always check the label of foods before buying – gelatine, for example, is a common addition to many types of sweets.
Could Lead to Nutrient Deficiencies
It’s absolutely possible for a balanced meat-free diet to provide vegetarians with sufficient nutrition, however, they do need to be more vigilant, as many key nutrients are naturally sourced in meat. Vitamin D, for instance, though sourced in eggs, is found in fish and fish liver oils.
Fortunately, vitamin supplements are available and provide a convenient way for vegans and vegetarians to consume the nutrients they may otherwise be lacking from their diets.
Certain nutrients are especially vital for maintaining women’s health, which is why supplements such as Wellwoman Vegan are ideal in supplying a well-balanced source of vitamins and minerals that target female health and are cruelty-free.
Less Choice in Foods
Vegetarian diets are certainly in the minority compared to diets that include meat and fish, so it can take some time to get used to the reduced choice in food available when shopping, eating out or socialising with friends and family. While there has been a significant rise in the choice of mock meats and plant-based alternatives available on the market in the last few years, there are still a greater variety of meat and poultry aisles in the supermarkets in comparison.
Not Necessarily Healthier
It’s common to assume that eating a vegetarian diet is automatically healthier, however, that isn’t always the case unless the food consumed is balanced and well-varied. Even though research has shown a vegetarian diet to help reduce many different diseases, there are still plant-based foods that can cause weight gain or other health risks, the same as any other food group. Sodium, fat and added sugar are all still included within vegetarian processed foods just like those that contain meat, and so need to still be eaten in moderation.