A Vegetarian Diet: Is it Right for You?
Most Americans can’t imagine giving up bacon, steak, or chicken. However, 5% of people living in the United States eat a vegetarian diet. Some choose this diet because of moral reasons, but many individuals eat this way because of the health benefits.
Vegetarian diets are typically low in fat and cholesterol, and also pack a heavy punch of fiber. Together, studies show that these factors put vegetarians at a lower risk of developing obesity, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, diabetes, and breast, ovarian, and colorectal cancers.
Here are some of the most popular questions regarding the vegetarian diet in order to help you decide if it’s right for you:
1. Do vegetarians have to follow a strict and boring diet?This is a common misconception about vegetarianism, but don’t worry—there are thousands of different types of fruits and vegetables in the world. In addition, vegetarians eat a wide variety of beans, grains, nuts, and seeds. Becoming a vegetarian could really broaden your tastes and appreciation for food beyond the typical diet of “meat and potatoes.” You’ll have plenty of good food to eat—we promise!
2. Do vegetarians miss out on important nutrients?While the vegetarian diet contains an overabundance of nutrients like fiber and antioxidants, some people worry about getting adequate amounts of other important nutrients:
- Protein: Meat is extremely rich in protein, but this macronutrient is also found in a variety of grains, vegetables, and nuts. For example, one cup of quinoa accounts for 17% of a woman’s daily protein needs and a serving of almonds takes care of another 13% of the daily protein requirements.
- Iron: Most people obtain this mineral from red meat and eggs. Vegetarians can get plenty of iron from eating sweet potatoes, beans, green vegetables, and tofu.
- Vitamin B12: This is a real concern for vegetarians because the natural form of vitamin B12 only exists in animal products. However, many breakfast cereals and nutritional yeast products are fortified with B12. Many vegetarians also take a multivitamin that contains adequate amounts of B12.
3. How do vegetarians afford expensive produce?The types of foods included in the vegetarian diet can be expensive. However, many types of animal products are quite expensive, as well. In reality, a vegetarian diet can work for any budget. Consider these economical vegetarian tips:
- Beans come in many varieties and they’re all healthy. You can buy cooked beans by the can, but consider
- Look for frozen fruits and vegetables. The frozen varieties contain just as many nutrients as the fresh foods.
- Don’t try to substitute for non-vegetarian foods. This includes meat substitutes, cheese substitutes, and the like. These foods are really expensive and most likely you’ll be disappointed in the taste.
- Join a local food co-op. You’ll be exposed to new foods every week and you’ll be helping local farmers at the same time. Make sure you check prices—some items are cheaper from a co-op, but others may be more expensive.
Improving your diet is a wonderful way to improve your overall health. If the vegetarian diet sounds like it would work for you, we encourage you to give it a try. You may even want to keep a food journal to see how your vegetarian diet corresponds with your energy levels or health markers.Even if you’re not ready to give up animal products altogether, you can still experience health benefits by eating like a vegetarian once or twice each day. Try adding more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to your diet and cutting back on meat portion sizes.
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Instructions and Disclaimer: The content on this website is designed for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses. Always consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your health.
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