Vegging out!

Image by Canadian Veggie on Flickr
Image by Canadian Veggie on Flickr

The ups and downs of vegetarianism

By Sonia Panesar, Contributor

There’s a common misconception that being vegetarian means giving up foods that are either interesting or tasty. While sometimes true, vegetarianism is better for your health in the long-run. There are several kinds of vegetarians—read ahead to see what their diets consist of.

The most common type of vegetarian doesn’t eat meat, poultry, or fish. They still eat dairy though, including eggs. Another commonly known vegetarian is a vegan— in addition to avoiding meat, poultry, and fish, they generally don’t consume products that come from animals. But why are people vegetarians? There can be a variety of reasons, such as taste preferences, spiritual reasons, care for animals, as well as for ecological reasons.

Health is a key reason for a lot of vegetarians. Vegetarians have a lower risk of developing heart disease, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and cancers such as breast, colorectal, and ovarian. Vegetarians have a lower rate of these maladies because they tend to have a diet which is higher in fruits, vegetables, and fibre. Vegetarians are also more likely to have a hormone-free diet, as non-vegetarians consume meats that may have been injected with growth hormones. Some animals also have had steroids, epinephrine, and stress hormones in their blood streams which are passed onto the humans who eat them.

Vegetarians tend to have a greater life span because their bodies don’t have toxins from animals in their blood, and they consume less animal fat, therefore they are less likely to have a build up of atheroma, also known as artery plaque. Several studies suggest that vegetarians may live an average of four years longer than non-vegetarians.

However, being a vegetarian does have its drawbacks. There tends to be a lot less variety of food, the flavours get old, and your taste palate isn’t as broad as that of a non-vegetarian. There are also some health problems associated with vegetarianism, such as a deficit of vitamins that are not available in plants, grains, or dairy. Prudent vegetarians tend to take supplements such as vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, and zinc. Supplements can be avoided if the individual makes an effort to balance their diet and ensure that they are receiving all the nutrients they need to nourish their bodies.

Being a healthy vegetarian is possible. Choose whole-grain products instead of white bread or refined grains. Don’t turn to sugary, high-energy foods. If you want to satisfy a sweet tooth, choose fruits instead. Don’t limit your taste buds—explore by trying foods that belong to different cultures. Plan your meals for the week, or create a menu for yourself. Make sure you eat everything in moderation; try going for low-fat varieties or non-fat varieties. Most importantly: don’t let anyone bring you down, or let anyone discourage you.