Vegetarianism: The Pros and Cons

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Vegetarianism is the practice of following a strict nutritional diet that avoids eating all sorts of meat, fish, and poultry. Veganism, on the other hand, is a higher degree of vegetarianism that includes abstaining from eating or using all animal products, including milk, cheese, other dairy items, eggs, honey, wool, silk, or leather. People become vegetarians for many different reasons among these reasons are health, environmental, and ethical concerns, dislike of meat, non-violent beliefs, and compassion for animals.

While some people cannot imagine a day without meat, others insist that a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle is the best way to enjoy food and stay healthy. Vegetarian lifestyles and veganism have slowly embraced millions of people interested in eating natural foods and foregoing questionable meat sources to get their daily protein. Generally speaking, almost every person who chose to become vegetarian did so for one of the following four motives:

  1. Health motives: As response to high cholesterol, heart issues, obesity, diet recommendations, diabetes, or a desire to eat healthier and more environmentally friendly, and/or a wanting to increase raw foods in their diet.
  2. Spiritual motives: Revulsion to the idea of killing another organism for food.
  3. Ethical motives: As protest to the terribly inhumane treatment of the food animals by the industry. Also, as protest against the genetic and hormonal alteration of the food animals. Some people with this concern are not necessarily against eating animals, but rather their treatment and so feel that eating free-ranging chicken/eggs, and cows is fine if they have lived a healthy life with normal nutrition.
  4. Environmental motives: Using land and resources to graze cattle for food is horrifically inefficient way to produce protein, use the same acre of land to grow soy, cut out the greenhouse gases from livestock, and you now have a recipe to truly address world hunger.

The strongest debate that vegetarians pose during their arguments is that a vegetarian diet provides a low intake of saturated fats and foods with the “bad” cholesterol. Thus, vegetarians eat a lot of dietary fiber and a variety of phytochemicals that promote health. This is achieved by increasing the consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and various soy products.

As a result, vegetarians tend to have lower body mass index, low-density lipoprotein and blood pressure. Vegetarians are less likely to suffer from coronary heart disease, hypertension, stroke, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

On the other side, we find the argument against vegetarianism very strong, analytical, and convincing. They believe that eating meat is not cruel or unethical; it is a natural part of the cycle of life. They argue that vegetarians mistakenly elevate the value of animal life over plant life.

Research shows that plants respond electrochemically to threats and may feel fear, so vegetarians are also causing harm every time they kill and eat a plant. Every organism on Earth dies or is killed, at some point, so other organisms can live. There is nothing wrong with this cycle; it is how nature works.

It is a fact that meat is the most convenient protein source available. In one serving, meat provides all the essential amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein, as well as essential nutrients such as iron, zinc, and B vitamins. Most plant foods do not provide adequate levels of all the essential amino acids in a single serving.

Since meat is the most convenient source of vitamin B12, several clinical studies proved that vegetarians suffer from a lack of vitamin B12, which is essential for cell growth and the formation of blood cells. Lack of this vitamin threatens neurological disorders, including irreversible loss of nerve cells. Infants who are fed breast milk by vegetarian mothers can have anemia because of a lack of vitamin В12.

Weak bones is also a common problem among vegetarians as their bones suffer from deficiency of Cyancobalamin as a result of inadequate calcium and vitamin D supply, which may reduce the growth of bone tissue and cause a decrease in bone mineral density. Correspondingly, fractures are frequent among vegetarians.

There are also other issues surrounding vegetarianism that do not relate to health. If you go around a friend’s house as a vegetarian then immediately you limit what they can cook and they are forced to go out and buy special ingredients to be able to host you. At the same time, if you eat out at a restaurant you drastically limit your options to those vegetarian dishes, sometimes there will only be one, or in some cases none at all. Truth is, when you decide to become a vegetarian you voluntarily decide to miss out on a lot of food and a lot of experiences.

To sum up, we can simply agree that there are contradictory rumors about vegetarianism due to the lack of accurate knowledge about this unusual diet. No one can simply tell you if becoming a vegetarian is the best choice for you or not. You need to do your homework, research on the vegetarian lifestyle, and absorb a complete full image of its advantages and disadvantages before deciding to become a part of it.

The original article was published in the SCIplanet Magazine, Spring 2014 issue.

References

http://www.health.harvard.edu
www.healthremarks.com
http://vegetarian.procon.org/

Images: Freepik.com
 

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