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Why Vegetarianism Could Be Bad for You

Updated on December 6, 2014

In the last six months, I've cut most meat out of my diet. I don't have plans to become a full vegetarian at this point but I've probably cut meat consumption by about 90%. Since I've reduced meat in my diet, I've dramatically increased the amount of vegetables and whole grains I consume to compensate. When I've told friends and relatives about this some express concern that I might not get enough protein.

But a lack of protein usually isn't a concern. Most Americans get way too much protein in their diets. Too much protein can harm the kidneys. Protein deficiency shouldn't be a problem for anyone who has a balanced diet with plenty of low fat dairy, beans, nuts, eggs and tofu.

While vegetarians are generally healthier and live longer, there are some potential dangers to a vegetarian diet. Cutting meat out of your diet can lower your risk of developing many health problems. But it can put you at risk of others. The more restrictive your diet becomes, the more you need to ensure that your body is getting all needed vitamins and minerals. You can also work with a dietician to ensure your diet is balanced.

Cutting down on meat and increasing fruit and vegetable consumption has many health benefits
Cutting down on meat and increasing fruit and vegetable consumption has many health benefits

Vitamin K Deficiency

Vitamin K is necessary for proper blood clotting and for strong bones. Vegetarians should eat lots of green vegetables, which are high in vitamin K. This includes brussel sprouts, kale, Romaine lettuce, spinach, parsley, broccoli, asparagus and avocado.

Dangerously Low Cholesterol

We all know that high cholesterol is bad for us. But cholesterol levels that are too low are also potentially dangerous and can lead to an early death. This shouldn't be a problem for people who consume plenty of dairy products and eggs.

Increased Colorectal Cancer Risk

This one surprised me the most. Studies have found that cancer is lower among vegetarians than among meat eaters with the exception of colorectal cancer. And the risk to vegetarians is a whopping 39 percent higher. The researchers weren't able to pinpoint a cause.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Meat eaters are at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. But a lack of vitamin B12 in the blood can put vegetarians and vegans at higher risk. Low levels of B12 can result in arteriosclerosis. Dairy foods and eggs should provide adequate amounts of B12. Many breakfast cereals are vitamin B12 fortified.

Lack of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids, which include EPA and DHA, mainly come from fish products. Omega-3s are important for cardiovascular health and brain health. Some studies have found that elderly people who consume omega-3's score better on memory and attention tests. They may also improve the symptoms of people who suffer from severe depression. Nuts, flaxseed and seaweed are good sources of these essential fatty acids as well. Vegetarians can buy omega-3 supplements to ensure they are getting enough of these essential fats in their diets.

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Alternatives to Vegetarianism

If you're concerned about potential health consequences of becoming vegetarian, you could consider being a flexitarian instead. Flexitarians are vegetarian most of the time, but incorporate small amounts of animal protein into their diet.

Another alternative is becoming a pescatarian. The only animal protein pescatarians consume is from fish. Fish raise HDL levels and many are high in omega-3's. One study found that heart disease was 34% lower in pescetarians, 34% lower in ovo-lacto vegetarians (vegetarians who consume eggs and dairy), 26% lower in vegans and 20% lower in occasional meat-eaters.

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    • Learn Things Web profile imageAUTHOR

      Learn Things Web 

      4 years ago from California

      oldiesmusic, I agree with a balanced diet being the most important thing. And becoming a full vegetarian really does require people to be careful about what they eat to make sure they're getting the nutrients that meat provides. The more restrictive you become diet-wise the more careful you need to become as well.

    • oldiesmusic profile image

      oldiesmusic 

      4 years ago from United States

      Well, the problem with vegetarians is that they become like that because of their beliefs and not only because of health reasons. They don't want to eat that moves or breathes, or has eyes. I don't encourage too much meat on the diet cos it's potentially harmful. But to eat with no meat? That's dangerous too. Balanced diet is always the best way, and eating in moderation too. Thanks for your enlightening hub.

    • Learn Things Web profile imageAUTHOR

      Learn Things Web 

      4 years ago from California

      cathylynn99,

      That's true. There are supplements aimed specifically at vegans.

    • cathylynn99 profile image

      cathylynn99 

      4 years ago from northeastern US

      for vegans, a bacteria-derived B12 supplement is available.

    • Learn Things Web profile imageAUTHOR

      Learn Things Web 

      4 years ago from California

      Thanks passionate77. The term flexitarian is fairly new. I hadn't heard of it until I started researching vegetarianism earlier this year.

    • passionate77 profile image

      passionate77 

      4 years ago

      nice and wonderful informative hub you posted my dear, million blessings for sharing such a nice info cause i am also vegetarian mostly but rarely i eat BBQ chicken so i got to know that i am some what flexitarian. lol, anyway i am happy with this new term that i got familiar with now onward, stay blessed always my dear and keep smiling!

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