Dr. Rand recently spoke with Creations Magazine regarding the many documented benefits of a vegetarian diet, as well as a walkthrough of what to expect 1 month, 6 months, and 1 year + into the diet. Below Dr. Rand dives into the primary question: is being Vegetarian healthy?
“The take-home message here should be to focus on balance. A balanced vegetarian diet could offer several potential health benefits. Meal preparation and vitamin supplementation are key. Practice these habits and you’ll be able to make a vegetarian or vegan diet work for you.”
Some Documented Benefits
JAMA released an excellent study with over 70,000 people regarding dietary habits and death rates. Those participants with a vegetarian diet showed reduced mortality rates of 12%.
Harvard Health noted several advantages of a vegetarian lifestyle:
- Lower risk of cardiac events (such as a heart attack) and deaths from those events
- Reduced risk in certain cancers
- Reduce the risk of Type 2 Diabetes
There are several more advantages currently being studied that could clarify even more benefits – these are just the ones we have documented proof for.
What About the Risks?
With any diet change, it’s important to consider all of the variables involved. Here’s are a few of the major nutrients that concerns those making the switch:
Meat contains high amounts of protein, which are important building blocks for body tissue and energy fuel in the body. Plant-based protein does different from animal protein, but recent studies have not shown animal protein to be superior for the body. Diets that allow milk or eggs can easily reach the proper protein levels need, while vegans can match their body’s protein requirements through proper meal prep and planning.
Vitamin B12 is only found in animal products, so it is critical for vegetarians to make sure they get their necessary nutrition. If your diet includes dairy or eggs, most vegetarians will get the B12 they need. If not, look for foods fortified with B12 or supplement B12 directly. B12 deficiency can lead to serious neurological problems, anemia, fatigue, and more.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Diets without fish or eggs are low in EPA and DHA – important structural components of the human brain, cerebral cortex, retina, all the way down to cell membranes. While our bodies can convert some plant oil based Omega-3’s into these (ALA into EPA and then into DHA), it’s not enough to rely on for your nutritional needs. Again, look for ways to supplement: DHA-fortified breakfast bars or soy milk, or fish oil supplements.
Iron and Zinc
Studies have shown in Western countries that vegetarians tend to get the same amount of both of these as meat eaters, however it is important to make sure your diet contains these as well. Vegetarians might have a harder time absorbing these based on the exact foods consumed.
Overall, is being Vegetarian healthy?
As with everything, the take-home message here should be to focus on balance. A balanced vegetarian diet could offer several potential health benefits. Meal preparation and vitamin supplementation are key. Practice these habits and you’ll be able to make a vegetarian or vegan diet work for you.