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  • Dr. Norbert Martin, DPT

5 Pros and Cons of Being a Vegetarian

Updated: Mar 17





By Dr. Norbert Martin, DPT


Vegetarian dishes

Vegetarianism has become a popular lifestyle choice for many people around the world. Whether you're considering becoming a vegetarian or just curious about the lifestyle, it's necessary to understand the potential benefits and challenges. Here are five pros and cons of being a vegetarian that you should know:


Pros:

  • Improved Health: A vegetarian diet can offer several health benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and some types of cancer. 1,2,3,4


  • Environmental Sustainability: Adopting a plant-based diet can reduce your carbon footprint and contribute to environmental sustainability, as producing meat requires more land, water, and energy resources than plant-based foods.


  • Animal Welfare: By avoiding meat, vegetarians help reduce animal cruelty and exploitation.


  • Affordability: A vegetarian diet can be more affordable than a meat-based diet, as plant-based foods such as beans, lentils, and vegetables are usually cheaper than meat.


  • Lower Risk of Foodborne Illnesses: Consuming meat increases the risk of foodborne illnesses such as salmonella, E. coli, and listeria, which can be reduced by avoiding meat.




Cons:

  • Nutrient Deficiencies: A vegetarian diet may lack certain essential nutrients such as vitamin B12, iron, and zinc, which are mostly found in animal-based foods. However, vegetarians can obtain these nutrients from fortified foods or supplements.


  • Social Challenges: Being a vegetarian may pose social challenges, especially when dining with non-vegetarians or attending events where only meat-based dishes are served. However, many restaurants and caterers now offer vegetarian options.


  • Limited Food Options: Being a vegetarian may restrict food options in some areas or restaurants, making it challenging to find a variety of nutritious options. However, with increased awareness and demand, vegetarian options are becoming more widely available.


  • Extra Preparation: Vegetarianism may require more time and effort to prepare balanced meals and ensure adequate nutrient intake. However, with planning and preparation, it is possible to maintain a healthy and varied vegetarian diet.



  • Ethical Considerations: Some argue that certain types of agriculture, such as large-scale monoculture, can lead to habitat destruction, soil degradation, and water pollution, making vegetarianism a difficult ethical choice for some. However, vegetarianism remains a viable ethical choice for those who prioritize animal welfare and environmental sustainability.

In conclusion, being a vegetarian can offer many health, environmental, and ethical benefits. However, it also poses certain challenges that require careful consideration. Ultimately, the decision to adopt a vegetarian diet should be based on individual values, beliefs, and personal circumstances. By understanding the pros and cons of being a vegetarian, you can make an informed decision about what's right for you.



References
  1. Wang F, Zheng J, Yang B, Jiang J, Fu Y, Li D. Effects of Vegetarian Diets on Blood Lipids: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. J Am Heart Assoc. 2015 Oct 27;4(10):e002408. doi: 10.1161/JAHA.115.002408. PMID: 26508743; PMCID: PMC4845138.

  2. Macknin M, Kong T, Weier A, Worley S, Tang AS, Alkhouri N, Golubic M. Plant-based, no-added-fat or American Heart Association diets: impact on cardiovascular risk in obese children with hypercholesterolemia and their parents. J Pediatr. 2015 Apr;166(4):953-9.e1-3. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2014.12.058. Epub 2015 Feb 12. PMID: 25684089; PMCID: PMC4380801.

  3. Peña-Jorquera H, Cid-Jofré V, Landaeta-Díaz L, Petermann-Rocha F, Martorell M, Zbinden-Foncea H, Ferrari G, Jorquera-Aguilera C, Cristi-Montero C. Plant-Based Nutrition: Exploring Health Benefits for Atherosclerosis, Chronic Diseases, and Metabolic Syndrome—A Comprehensive Review. Nutrients. 2023; 15(14):3244. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu15143244

  4. Watling CZ, Schmidt JA, Dunneram Y, Tong TYN, Kelly RK, Knuppel A, Travis RC, Key TJ, Perez-Cornago A. Risk of cancer in regular and low meat-eaters, fish-eaters, and vegetarians: a prospective analysis of UK Biobank participants. BMC Med. 2022 Feb 24;20(1):73. doi: 10.1186/s12916-022-02256-w. PMID: 35197066; PMCID: PMC8867885.


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