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Animal Free: Is a Vegan Diet Healthy?

Updated on April 9, 2011
Calves on an organic farm.  A far cry from the factory farms which most of our meat comes from.
Calves on an organic farm. A far cry from the factory farms which most of our meat comes from.

Is Meat Really Bad For You?

Becoming a vegetarian has become quite trendy in the last few years. From vegetarian restaraunts opening up to provacative PETA commercials and Hollywood A-listers to football players proclaiming the benefits of being meat free.

Quite recently, we are learning the horrors of factory farming. Animals that are raised to become dinner live in filthy conditions and are treated inhumanely. Because of the poor handling of these creatures, people are becoming sick. Mad Cow, Bird Flu, E Coli are just a few diseases in the last twenty years or so that are a direct result of careless handling and disgusting practices.

Many people have cut down or eliminated their intake of animal products. They claim to feel healthier, energetic and have lost weight due to this change in their diet. Is it really healthy?

One of the main arguments against eating a meat free diet is a possible lack of nutrients such as protein and vitamin B12. The truth about protein is that it is in virtually everything we eat and most people get more than enough protein, carnivore or not. Vitamin B12 on the other hand, is only found in animal products. Vitamin B12 is crucial because it forms energy by processing the fats, proteins and carbohydrates we absorb from the food we consume in our daily diet. B12 also helps prevent heart disease and keeps our immune system strong. A deficiency in this essential vitamin includes dizziness, paleness, fatigue, vomiting, depression and in rare cases delusions and mental confusion. Vegetarians that eat dairy may not have to worry so much but vegans, who eat no animal product at all, must take supplements for their B12.

It's a myth that all vegetarians are healthy and thin. You still have to watch your calories and vegetarians must watch their sugar and/or dairy consumption. Vegetarians who eat a diet based on plant foods and not chips, fries and sugary foods are the healthier ones.

Another option is to eat organic. Organic farm animals are treated humanely, live on sunny farms and are not injected with hormones and antibiotics. Consuming organic foods tastes better and is healthier for you. Organic food is much more expensive but since it is better for you it means less health issues which in the long run will save you money.

Vegetarians do consume more vegetables and fruits than their fellow carnivores but also have to be careful of weight gain and a vitamin B12 deficiency. That said, vegetarians tend to live healthier lives and have less chance of disease than meat eaters.

Of course you don't have to be a vegetarian to be healthy. Meat is not bad for you in moderation. Organic is definetely the way to go and you will have less of a chance of getting sick.

In the end, it's a personal decision. One thing is certain, if you want to stay healthy, live a long time and keep your weight under control, you wll have to consume more vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains. As Americans, we eat way too much meat and dairy. Cutting down or eliminating it completely may be a challenge but vital to your health and well being.


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      Gregory Jackson 5 years ago

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    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      You've raised some excellent points, amymarie_5. The reports of animal treatment in some factory farms are atrocious; eating organically raised animals that are humanely killed is certainly a much kinder choice. Kinder still is a vegan diet, but as you say it has to be planned very carefully to ensure that a person stays healthy.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Great article, but what about me? I can't seem to NOT be very thin, and I CAN and HAVE been even thinner; I like eating meat, but I'm open to the possibility of doing without it, but I worry about loosing weight.

    • Silver Poet profile image

      Silver Poet 6 years ago from the computer of a midwestern American writer

      Interesting about the B12. It gives one something to think about.