Anyone who has contemplated adopting a vegetarian diet must have at some time considered the question of how healthy a vegetarian diet is. If you have not contemplated the question I am sure your friends or family have made it their point of duty to question you about it. There is so much concern and worry over the issue. Not to mention, misinformation. There is always some doubt and fear as to the health of the person who embraces this diet. But why should there be? Let’s examine what all of this entails and you can decide for yourselves whether a vegetarian diet is healthy or not.
A question of eating
Why do people eat? Okay, that’s a silly question because everybody knows that we eat to provide nutrients for our bodies which is necessary for life and health.
Are we all agreed on that statement? I think we are. What is important for us to know is if our diet is providing these necessary nutrients.
I know some of you pay no attention to the nutritive value of your food. Eating for you is just a favourite pastime.
When you see a group of friend at the fast food joint chatting and laughing and having a good time, do you think they are thinking “let us provide our bodies with some necessary nutrients”, or when you are going out with your group of friends to some exciting party, is the theme of the evening “let us go and get nutrients to sustain the health of our bodies?” Nope. I think not. Eating is just a fun activity.
But then again, maybe that is the body’s way of ensuring that we eat for sustenance; make it fun.
Anyway, I digress. Let’s get back to the real issue.
What do we get from our food?
We get nutrients necessary to sustain the body. We all learnt about this from our early days at school. They taught us about Carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients. Actually, we probable didn’t learn about phytonutrients until we became adults. At least that is my experience. I was definitely an adult when I learnt that word. I never heard about it while I was at school.
How do these nutrients help us?
Carbohydrates are broken down into sugar and provides energy for the body
Proteins are broken down into amino acids and these are the building blocks of the body. They are used to build muscle and to make other proteins that are essential for the body to function.
Fats are broken down into fatty acids to make cell linings and support internal organs. Fat also provides energy.
Vitamins And Minerals
Vitamins are a group of substances that are needed for normal cell function, growth, and development.
Minerals are necessary for 3 main reasons
- building strong bones and teeth
- controlling body fluids inside and outside cells
- turning the food you eat into energy
Vitamins and minerals are considered essential nutrients—because acting together, they perform hundreds of roles in the body. They help strengthen bones, heal wounds, repairs cellular damage and boost up your immune system.
This is a substance found in certain plants. There are thousands of phytonutrients found in plant food. Although they are not essential for keeping you alive as is the case with vitamins and minerals, it is believed to be beneficial to human health, help prevent various diseases and keeps your body working properly.
Many meat eaters I am sure try to get in their 5 to 8 servings of fruits and vegetables. That is how they will get much of their vitamins, phytonutrients and minerals. They get their carbohydrates I would suspect from similar sources as the vegetarian. The big difference between the vegetarian and the non-vegetarian diet is their source of protein. One gets protein mainly from meat and animal products and the other gets their protein mainly from plant-based foods.
All should be well then as long as the body is getting the required nutrients? Unfortunately not so. You see, numerous studies have shown that eating meat has been linked to obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and many other chronic and deadly diseases.
Are there alternatives to meat in the diet?
Oh yes there are. A plant based diet provides all the nutrients required for optimal health. Are you wondering what you can possible eat if you eliminate beef, chicken, seafood, pork etc. from your diet? Don’t worry, there are lots more options for you. Just think fruit, vegetable, grains, nuts and seeds. That will provide all the food and nutrients you need to attain and maintain good health.
After all, what was the first diet. If you go way, way, way back to when man was created, you will find that the diet set out for him was just that; fruits, vegetable, grains, nuts and seeds. Meat was not included. I don’t think God created man and then provided a diet that was deficient. I think he provided for humans what was the best diet for humans.
Health Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet
The benefits are many. Numerous studies have been done which show that a vegetarian diet reduces the risk of several chronic lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, hypertension, obesity and some cancers. Studies also show that vegetarians tend to live longer that their meat eating counterpart. Also, persons who are overweight or obese and are trying to lose weight are much more successful on a vegetarian diet than those who are not.
Can vegetarians get cancer?
Now we come to the big question. There is a serious lack of understanding when it comes to this question. There are many persons, vegetarian and non-vegetarians who are of the misguided view that if you eat a vegetarian diet you will not get cancer or stroke or any such chronic diseases. But that is not exactly true. While healthy lifestyle choices (obeying all the laws of health including diet, exercise etc.) greatly reduce the risk of getting these diseases, it is not a guarantee that you will never get it.
The sad thing though is that some vegetarians behave as if vegetarianism is some sort of religion which they force upon those around them. This behaviour is not very well-received and results in a resistance or downright dislike of the very notion of vegetarianism. Can you imagine the irony then when these same vegetarians come down with cancer. It makes for some seriously juicy gossip among unsympathetic acquaintances.
Vegetarianism is not a religion. It is a healthy lifestyle choice that you make if you so choose.
Vegetarianism is not just about living long.
People are so focused on death, that they miss the joys of life. What is more important to you? Long life or quality life.
As mentioned earlier, a vegetarian diet reduces the risk of several diseases and is shown to result in longer life but we sometimes look at the end result and totally forget the day to day results of this diet choice.
Persons whose diet is plant based will tell you how good they feel just about every day. Persons who have just started on a plant based diet will tell of the wonderful change they experience in their health. The vegetarian will tell you he has not been sick a day in the past year.
I have heard the same from meat eaters. “I hardly get sick”. “I haven’t been sick for years”. I hear it from my meat eating coworkers. But are they telling the truth?
They aren’t purposely telling an untruth but people have become so used to being sick that they don’t even realize they are sick. The same coworkers who say they don’t get sick are constantly complaining of upset stomach, heartburn, sinusitis, colds, flu and all sorts of aches and pains. When the vegetarian who practices healthy lifestyle tells you he hardly gets sick, he truly feels great every day.
Some persons suffer side effects of medications because they would rather take a pill than adopt a change in lifestyle. The side effects eventually become the norm.
You won’t live forever
Yes, we know that life will end, even for the vegetarian but we know for sure from all the studies that have been done that a vegetarian diet significantly increases your quality of health way above those who are meat eaters. While you don’t know what tomorrow brings, you know for sure that you feel great today.
Here is a hard question for you…. then again maybe it’s not so hard.
Which would you prefer;
to live for 85 years but for the last 50 years you are bedridden, in constant pain and ill health, requiring constant care; someone to feed you, bathe you and clean you when you use the toilet.
to live for 65 years enjoying a healthy, active lifestyle, enjoying the outdoors, hiking in the hills, going to the beach, being out on the playing field with your children and grandchildren.
You see, its not just about living long. It’s the quality of life that you live. The truth is that vegetarians overall enjoy a better quality of life than non vegetarians.
God has blessed me with good health. I do my part by adopting and maintaining as much as possible, a healthy lifestyle. My diet is 95% plant based and I see the effects of these lifestyle choices in my daily life. Yes. I feel good.
I recently checked my sick leave stats at work. I work full time, 40 – 48 hours per week and in the last 10 years I have been off sick 1 day in August 2012 and 4 days in November 2014.
That’s pretty good, don’t you think? I credit that to God’s blessings and my diet and lifestyle choices.
Some persons might be wondering if a vegetarian diet is really healthy. I need no more convincing. I am sold.
So what do you think? Is a vegetarian diet healthy?
My experience is, if you want to enjoy better health, consider adopting a vegetarian lifestyle. It really works.
Give it a try and tell us all about it in the comments section below.