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The Health Benefits of Going Vegetarian

Updated on June 1, 2015

According the dictionary.com, a vegetarian is a person who does not eat or does not believe in eating meat, fish, fowl, or, in some cases, any food derived from animals, such as eggs or cheese, but subsists on vegetables, fruits, nuts, grain, etc. As of 2013, about 5% of the US population considers themselves to be vegetarian. Many claim to have given up meat and animal products for a variety of reasons, including a moral objection to eating animals, religious purposes, personal taste, or health reasons. Here we'll be examining some of the health benefits of a meat-free diet, and dispelling some of the common misconceptions about going 'veggie.'

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Common Misconceptions

Many people refrain from going vegetarian because they believe many of the common rumors about the diet. Here are some of the misconceptions, with a healthy bit of truth to go with it.

  1. Rumor: You can't get enough protein from a vegetarian diet.
    Truth: You can get tons of protein from vegetables, grains, fruit and nuts! And all while cutting out most of the fat! 1 cup of broccoli, 2 cups of kale, and 1 whole sweet potato contain about 5 grams of protein. Half a cup of most kinds of beans contain the same amount of protein as 1 ounce of chicken.
  2. Rumor: Going vegetarian can be very expensive
    Truth: Vegetables and grains may seem expensive, but when you compare that to the fact that the average cost of most kinds of meat is about $3.00 per pound, the trade off isn't much different. Many meat-free recipes can also use frozen vegetables as opposed to buying fresh, which saves money on the initial purchase cost, and with a much longer shelf-life, prevents the risk of losing money by produce going bad.
  3. Rumor: You won't feel as full without some kind of meat
    Truth: The only way you would feel hungry on an all-vegetable diet would be if you weren't getting enough fiber, protein, and necessary fats in your diet. By including these necessities into your diet, you should always feel full with a meat-free diet. Fiber literally fills up your system and helps regulate your blood sugar, which controls cravings. Fat and protein provide your body with slow-burning energy to keep you feeling full, and avoid that lethargic, 'eat because I'm bored' sensation which causes many people to gain weight.

Vegetarian meals can be colorful and delicious!
Vegetarian meals can be colorful and delicious! | Source

Many top nutritionists and dietitians have written extensively on the idea that maintaining a vegetable-based, high protein diet can have incredible benefits to your health, and may even help to improve or even cure some common medical conditions and health concerns.

Nutritionists argue that adding more nutritious foods to your diet can provide your body with additional vitamins and healthy calories, while swapping out meat may eliminate many of the toxins and harmful chemicals introduced to your body through hormone-fed or genetically modified animal products. Many animal products also have been found to contain high levels of chemicals such as preservatives, purifying agents and even very harmful substances such as formaldehyde- a substance used in building materials that has widely been linked to causing cancer.

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Different Classifications of 'Vegetarian'

Being a non-meat eater generally implies vegetarian, but there are others who have structured their diet in ways which may include some kinds of animal by-products, and others which refrain from them altogether. The ADA, or American Dietetic Association, provides some more detailed classifications for vegetarians:

  • Vegans or total vegetarians refrain from consuming all animal products (e.g. meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, and other dairy products). Many vegans also do not eat honey, as it is a product from bees.
  • Lactovegetarians exclude meat, poultry, fish, and eggs but do not refrain from adding some dairy products to their diets
  • Lacto-ovovegetarians exclude meat, poultry, and fish but include dairy products and eggs. Majority of the vegetarians in the US are lacto-ovovegetarians.
  • Pescetarians exclude most kinds of animal meat from their diet, but do not refrain from eating seafood such as fish or shellfish.

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Weight Loss

Adopting a plant-based diet may also help you to lose excess body fat. Note that I specified 'plant-based' and not simply vegetarian - you can eat all the pastas, french fries, cookies and donuts you'd like and still be a vegetarian! But sadly these will not aid in your weight loss goals.

Consuming mainly natural plant-based products may help eliminate much of the fat and cholesterol you may not even have known you were consuming with in a meat-eating diet. Simply by switching out those greasy burgers for a tofu-based stir fry can save almost a day's worth of calories!

Preventing Disease

Much research over the years has shown that a vegetarian diet may help reduce the risk of many diseases and physical conditions that ail most people. This diet has been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease, lower cholesterol and high blood pressure, and improving over-all heart-health.

People with certain digestive disorders have also shown great improvement with the inclusion of a more plant-based diet. They generally have less acidity in their system, helping to relieve the pain of heartburn and gastritis, and experience more regularity.

Consuming a primarily plant-based diet has also been shown to aid in longevity. In a 6-year study of more than 73,000 people, researchers discovered that those who consumed a vegetarian or even semi-vegetarian diet lived up to 12% longer than those who did not.

Adding These Ideas to Your Own Diet

Whether you are thinking about becoming a vegetarian, already are one, or are simply looking to create a healthy lifestyle, there are many resources you can use to help incorporate a nutritious diet into your everyday life.

For more information on the benefits of going Vegan, check out the documentary called Forks Over Knives, available on Netflix and Amazon.

Visit These sites for various vegetarian, vegan, and pescetarian recipes everyone in your family will enjoy, and be sure to share some of your favorites here!

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    • catmalone profile image

      catmalone 2 years ago

      I'm thinking about transitioning into a vegetarian due to the health benefit. I like to take my time gradually and not jump right off into it. The vegetarian dishes look delicious as well.

      Great hub with useful information!

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Great hub, KMS. I have a similar hub idea on vegetarian for this summer if not late spring. I've been a semi-vegetarian for most of my life until last year. I just have to find a healthier ham and bologna and be a full vegetarian. Voted up for useful!

    • KMSplumeau profile image
      Author

      KMSplumeau 2 years ago

      Thank you! It was very fun to research and write. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image

      Melody Lassalle 2 years ago from California

      I started as vegetarian and then went vegan a few years later. You pointed out many of the myths, especially the myth that it cost more to eat this way. And, it is so easy to get protein. The added fiber helps too. Thanks for setting things straight with this interesting articled!

    • NonCopyBook profile image

      Nicholas Daly 2 years ago from NSW Australia

      Can people msg on here? Oh I guess you can through fan messages hey. Otherwise it isn't really set up for chats is it..? And that'd be pretty awesome haha, Australia is where it's at by the way..

    • KMSplumeau profile image
      Author

      KMSplumeau 2 years ago

      Sounds awesome, if I make it out that way I'll message you!

    • NonCopyBook profile image

      Nicholas Daly 2 years ago from NSW Australia

      If you visit Sydney, you'd be the first hubber I meet haha.. I do know where all the best vegetarian restaurants are btw.. ;)

    • KMSplumeau profile image
      Author

      KMSplumeau 2 years ago

      I am actually! I've been starting to make plans, not sure if it'll be more of a road trip in the US or a more exotic location.

    • NonCopyBook profile image

      Nicholas Daly 2 years ago from NSW Australia

      I just checked to discover you can link to outside sites (without being commercial or too repetitive etc), so that will help with accrediting environmental & health facts.. I will spend more time on this hub though so it'll take awhile, & I'll do others in the meantime.. Cheers, Nick

    • NonCopyBook profile image

      Nicholas Daly 2 years ago from NSW Australia

      Are you about to travel solo?! You have just shared several hubs on that topic haha.. Anyway, I will think about what to include in the hub given it touches on so many different areas- whether to include all in one or a few, also some health or environmental information I am aware you can't link to outside sites, but it must be presented persuasively so that it is taken as fact (not that people ought to do that over-readily online anyway...). Cheers, Nick

    • KMSplumeau profile image
      Author

      KMSplumeau 2 years ago

      Wow, thank you so much for the information! I just added Cowspiracy to my "To-Watch" list, it looks really interesting. And I look forward to reading your hub about this topic, please let me know when you post it! Thanks for reading!

    • NonCopyBook profile image

      Nicholas Daly 2 years ago from NSW Australia

      I see you've linked to Forks Over Knives above, I'd also recommend Cowspiracy and (if you can find it) Got the Facts On Milk? I commented elsewhere awhile back and may have mentioned it.. I think I'll do a hub like this soon myself as I know a lot about it.. I am mostly vegan as I feel better & find it easy when I'm near the right restaurants (I'm a little lazier cooking at home (was much easier with previous partners) & sometimes there is just one or two ingredients in something- & I can be lazy or greedy with certain chocolates etc).. I bear in mind what others point out, in that would I eat a dog or drink dog's milk? That keeps it in perspective for me, & I like rice, coconut milk and icecream etc, just not the figure of health I should be... That reminds me, I just saw Gene Baur on the Daily Show- he & his new book look very inspiring (& he was great on the show)...

    • Rachel L Alba profile image

      Rachel L Alba 2 years ago from Every Day Cooking and Baking

      My granddaughter is a vegetarian. She does eat seafood and eggs and milk. Every rumor you put a truth to is absolutely correct. You can get enough protein, you can get full and there are a whole lot of recipes for vegetarians and the cost of meat is way more then the cost of vegetables and other non meat foods. She is also very thin and fit. I personally like my meat but if you want to go vegetarian, don't worry about health issues. Apparently it is a healthy diet.

      Thanks for all the other information. I voted a thumbs up.

    • colorfulone profile image

      Susie Lehto 2 years ago from Minnesota

      This is a very informative article. I know I could be eating healthier than I do with more fresh fruits and veggies. Very interesting.

    • KMSplumeau profile image
      Author

      KMSplumeau 2 years ago

      Thank you so much for your feedback! I've always thought about going pescatarian (I could never stop my love of seafood), I seriously might give it a try. And I did read in a few places that eating less meat does reduce body odor - I had no idea that meat could do that to our bodies! Thanks again for commenting.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      I amnot a vegetarian but i do agree that eating less meat is better, at least reduce body odor

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 2 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      Well, say hello to a pescatarian! Do I love this life-style? Oh, yes! Your hub is both informative and interesting. Voted up, useful, interesting and will share.

      A big thanks!

    • KMSplumeau profile image
      Author

      KMSplumeau 2 years ago

      Thank you for reading! Yes I really love the vegetarian lifestyle, there are so many benefits and humane too! Thanks for sharing.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Very useful and informative hub!

      I am basically a vegetarian and I love that. The health benefits of being vegetarian are immense, not only for the body but also for the mind.

      Thanks for sharing, pinned and voted up!

    • KMSplumeau profile image
      Author

      KMSplumeau 2 years ago

      Thank you! I've recently started reading a documentary on Ghandi's life, and he was a truly amazing man. A healthy body does lead to a healthy mind! Thank you so much for reading and commenting, I'm so glad you enjoyed.

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 2 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Wonderful hub with some great points. I too love veg food and follow that pattern most of the time.Mahatma Gandhi was a great follower of vegetarian dishes and he always stood for its promotion. It is good for our health as well mind. Voted up and shared.

    • KMSplumeau profile image
      Author

      KMSplumeau 2 years ago

      Congratulations, bonmotsminot! Thanks great news. I know the transitional period is always a bit difficult, but as you show, the benefits are always worth it. Thank you for reading, and I'm glad you enjoyed!

    • bonmotsminot profile image

      Sue Minot 2 years ago from Wellington, New Zealand

      I went pescatarian about 4 years ago (veggies/fish only), and have never looked back. For me it wasn't an ideological decision -I just didn't especially enjoy eating meat, so it was easy to cut it out entirely. I feel much healthier, my cholesterol is low-normal for my age, and I save LOTS of money :)

    • KMSplumeau profile image
      Author

      KMSplumeau 2 years ago

      Yes I agree, I always feel much healthier when eliminating meat from my diet. Thank you for reading!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      I've been vegetarian off and on and know for sure that I am healthier when not consuming meat. Thanks for promoting this healthy way of eating, and submitting proofs that it is effective. There has been an ongoing study for years trying to find evidence that vegetarians come up short on protein; they have found no such evidence.

    • KMSplumeau profile image
      Author

      KMSplumeau 2 years ago

      I agree, milk and dairy products are such a huge part my life I don't think I could ever go without them. Thank you for commenting, I'm glad you enjoyed it!

    • Joyfulcrown profile image

      Joyfulcrown 2 years ago

      Thanks for this informative article. I never you about the different type of vegetarians. I was a vegan but I am now a lactovegetarians, I can't seem to stay away from diary.