To the omnivores among us, going vegetarian can be a scary thought. We get so entrenched in our ways of living that changing can sometimes seem unfathomable. “What will I eat?” you might think to yourself, nervously clutching a bacon club sandwich, “How will I get enough protein?”
Well, if you are considering phasing animal flesh out of your diet, you’ll be happy to know that it really is not as difficult as you might think. There are plenty of great vegetarian options out there. If you’re craving a burger, vegetarian options abound. Of course, some are better than others, and how they taste has a lot to do with how they are prepared, but the same can be said for beef burgers, as well.
The dietary concerns that once spooked those who would otherwise have gone veggie are giving way to an abundance of evidence that vegetarianism is not only good for you, but also great for the environment. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of eating a plant-based diet, shall we?
Lean and… Not So Mean
One common misconception about vegetarian diets is that those who abstain from eating animals have a difficult time getting enough dietary protein. In fact, the average vegetarian gets only slightly less protein than the average meat-eater.
Even strength athletes such as wrestlers, football linemen, and power lifters can go vegetarian and still get the high levels of protein that training for their sports requires. So, for average folks, adequate protein is a non-concern.
What About Iron?
Iron deficiency was once a concern among those considering cutting out meat, but studies have shown that most vegetarians get plenty of it. Though iron acquired via plant sources is typically less bioavailable than that found in meat, the increased vitamin C typical of vegetarian diets makes the iron easier for the body to absorb.
Vegetarian diets are also very rich in magnesium, vitamin E, folic acid, and dietary fiber.
B12 and Omega 3s
Lacto-ovo vegetarians (those who consume eggs and dairy) get plenty of B12. But, if you’re cutting out animal products entirely, it can be hard to come by. However, there are foods that are fortified with this important vitamin, such as breakfast cereals, non-dairy milks, and meat substitutes. Including them in your diet can eliminate the risk of deficiency.
Plant sources of Omega-3 fatty acids abound. Walnuts, hempseed, kiwi-fruit, flax, and leafy greens are among them. You just have to include them in your diet to reap the health benefits offered by fatty acids.
Vegetarians tend to have lower BMIs than their meat-eating counterparts, and longer life expectancies. They have slimmer chances of developing cardiovascular issues, such as ischaemic heart disease and high blood pressure. That, plus lower odds of Alzheimer’s, renal disease, and many types of cancers means there’s a lot to like about going vegetarian.
Vegetarianism is Good for the Planet
Did you know that factory farming is one of the worst contributors to water pollution? Or that roughly 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are due to livestock production?
The environmental impact of our taste for meat is truly staggering. Just to put it into perspective, livestock production contributes more to global warming than all of our planes, trains, and automobiles put together.
Give it a Try
You don’t have to go from meat lover to full-on vegan overnight, unless you’re feeling particularly inspired. Start off with meatless Mondays, and go from there. Try substituting vegetarian options such as tempeh, seitan, and tofu in recipes you normally make with meat. You might be surprised at how little you miss eating animals, and how great skipping meat makes you feel.
[Photo Credit: sciencedaily]