Vegetarianism and the Human Body: The Pros and Cons of a Meat Free Diet

Analyzing the Effects of Vegetarianism on the Body and Mind

Wondering whether or not you should go on a vegetarian diet? Let us help you decide. Click to find out the pros, cons and effects of vegetarianism on the body.

Plant-based diets are all the rage. As people look for more healthy, sustainable food choices, vegetarian and vegan food products are becoming more readily available.


But the effects of vegetarianism on the body isn't the same for everyone. Check out these pros and cons of a meat-free diet.


Heart Disease vs. Stroke


One of the leading reasons people seek a vegetarian or vegan diet is to improve their health. Studies show that a meat-free diet reduces the risk of heart disease by as much as 22 percent.


Later, observational studies revealed that the risk of stroke increases by 20 percent on a vegetarian diet. The relationship between not eating meat and having a stroke is not direct.


The study followed 48,000 men and women in the United Kingdom over the course of 18 years to track their lifestyle habits and outcomes. The downside to using studies from vegetarians and meat-eaters is that the studies rely on self-reporting to get accurate data.


Experts tend to agree that more studies over a longer period of time are necessary to reach more solid conclusions about the impact of diet on heart disease and stroke. There are specific aspects of vegetarianism that can have a positive or negative impact on the body and mind depending on a person's habits.


Beware Nutrient Deficiency


One of the major arguments against a vegetarian diet is that it can lead to nutrient deficiency. Lack of protein causes a range of health problems like fatigue, low immunity, and hair loss.


Protein helps your body absorb the nutrients that aid your immune system when fighting off disease.  Vegetarian diets are at a much higher risk of protein deficiency than meat-eaters.


Even people who don't eat meat every day can quickly recoup their protein intake by increasing portion sizes. Lack of protein is one of the biggest criticisms of vegetarian and vegan diets, but there are others.


Some studies have linked vegetarianism to depression. This is especially true for new mothers relying on a higher calorie intake during breastfeeding years.


On the other hand, there is also evidence that being vegetarian makes you less anxious. The conclusion of the studies was that it's possible the vegetarians and meat-eaters were prone to depression or anxiety before they begin their diet.


Genes play a major role in predicting how your body regulates the hormones that impact your mood. Diet alone cannot cure mental and emotional health issues.


Vegetarianism might help keep your hormones balanced but lead to uncomfortable deficiency for your neighbor. Experts suggest it's important to look at family history, genetics, and lifestyle as a whole to determine which diet will keep you in the best mood.


Food Quality Matters


Let's face it, french fries are vegan. Candy is vegetarian.


Neither of these will help lower your risk of heart disease or lose weight. When it comes to choosing vegetarianism, you'll have to make quality choices in order to get the benefits.


This is where the trouble lies for many people. Failing to plan meals to incorporate a healthy mix of fresh proteins, fruits, and vegetables can quickly lead to nutritional deficiency.


The goal of vegetarianism isn't simply to eliminate meat. Avoid the temptation to look for the vegetarian version of all your favorite junk foods and microwave meals.


Preservatives, high salt content, and other fillers are harmful whether or not you include meat. Becoming a vegetarian is a much bigger lifestyle change that, when done right, includes new habits like chopping vegetables before a meal.


The quality of your actions will determine the impact. Reports of vegetarians who lowered their risk of disease did so by focusing on foods the improve health.


Junk food vegetarians have a high refined carb intake. This is often to enjoy a quick meal or snack when hungry on the go.


The carbs aid in making the body feel full longer so the person feels satisfied after eating. But the cheap calories can lead to a range of nutrient deficiency issues that will hurt you in the long run.


Weight Loss


The right mix of vegetarianism and exercise can lead to weight loss. The key is ensuring you've got a good meal plan in place.


In a Journal of General Internal Medicine study, vegetarians lost 4.4 more pounds than meat-eaters while vegans lost 5.5 more pounds. Popular diets like the MASH and Ornish diets include a range of meal options that seem to help with weight loss.


In general, new vegetarians should keep an arsenal of healthy snacks like nuts and whole fruits nearby to combat feelings of hunger. As your body adjusts to the lack of meat, you might feel hungry more frequently.


Add to that a 45-minute workout and your body will likely crave more calories. The quality of the vegetarian food you eat will make all the difference in the number of excess pounds you shed.


Vegetarians who eat mostly empty calories might see the reverse effect. Junk food vegetarians who don't monitor their caloric intake or commit to overall lifestyle changes might find that eating meat gets them full faster and keeps them full longer.


This means less unhealthy snacking and resorting to fast food meals.


Effects of Vegetarianism on the Body


The effects of vegetarianism on the body and mind can be amazing for many people. The best way to learn the effects of a meat-free diet on your body is to test out vegetarianism short-term.


Create a plan to help keep yourself on track. Planning your meals makes the lifestyle change more convenient and satisfying.


It may take a few more minutes each week, but you'll save money and get the results you want in the long run. For more information and fitness tips, check our blog for updates.

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