A blog series by Lena: proud vegetarian, age 17, Geppetto intern
In addition to my personal choice to be vegetarian, several of my family members have chosen to become vegetarian as well. While my decision to become vegetarian was largely based on the environmental impact of meat production, my family members have eliminated meat from their diet for health reasons. According to Randall White, MD, and Erica Frank, MD, MPH, “At present, vegetarians appear to make up less than 2% of the population, but substantial public health and environmental benefits would likely result from a more widespread adoption of vegetarianism.” The benefits of cutting meat out of your diet have been shown in several studies. An article published by The Western Journal of Medicine says that the vegetarian lifestyle has been proven to lower weight, cholesterol and blood pressure. Vegetarians also have lower death rates from ischemic heart disease and certain cancers such as colon, breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer. Some doctors even prescribe a plant based diet to their patients to treat heart disease and diabetes.
Despite these advantages to becoming vegetarian, it is important to eat a balanced diet. According to Harvard Medical School, “Unless you follow recommended guidelines on nutrition, fat consumption, and weight control, becoming a vegetarian won’t necessarily be good for you. A diet of soda, cheese pizza, and candy, after all, is technically ‘vegetarian.’” A healthy vegetarian diet will be full of foods like beans, eggs, vegetables and fruits. People who are weighing the pros and cons of becoming vegetarian may be worried about deficiencies in protein, iron, calcium, zinc, and Vitamin B12; however, a healthy, balanced diet will satisfy these parts of your diet. Beans can be a great source of protein, dark leafy greens such as kale can provide iron, yogurt can give you calcium, whole grains offer zinc, and eggs have Vitamin B12. As you can see, vegetarian diets that have a variety of different foods are able to account for all the nutrients that meat contains. Diet supplements should not be necessary if your diet is diverse, and it is always important to talk to your doctor before taking any supplements.
A vegetarian diet containing a wide range of food groups can provide many health benefits and ultimately lengthen your life. Embrace a vegetarian lifestyle and see how it can improve your health!