Advantages and disadvantages of a vegetarian diet
This article explores the advantages and disadvantages of a vegetarian diet. It also explores different types of vegetarians and provides examples of vegetarian diets. A vegetarian diet is a broad term. According to the Vegetarian Society, UK (2022) vegetarians do not eat fish, meat, or chicken. Some of theme also exclude other animal products from their diet too, including eggs and milk. People usually become vegetarian for moral, religious, or health reasons.
Types of vegetarians
There are different types of vegetarians e.g. lacto-ovo-vegetarians, lacto-vegetarians, ovo-vegetarians, pescatarians, flexitarians, vegans, and raw vegans.
Examples of vegetarian diets
A lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet consists of a variety of plant-based foods, including eggs and dairy products.
Lacto-vegetarians, along with meat, poultry, and fish, also exclude eggs from their diet. They do consume dairy products.
Ovo-vegetarians exclude all meat, poultry, fish, and dairy products but allow eggs.
Pescatarians maintain a vegetarian diet but allow fish in their consumption. As such, they are not strictly considered vegetarian.
Flexitarians regularly follow a vegetarian diet while adding meat in moderate quantities. They often consume whole plant-based foods and choose organic based meat and dairy products.
Vegans practice the abstinence of all animal products in every aspect of their lives i.e., from diet to attire to health and hygiene.
Raw vegans are people who consume unheated (sometimes heated at a very low temperature), uncooked, or unprocessed food. According to some sources, this can lead to serious nutritional deficiencies.
Advantages of a vegetarian diet
There are many advantages of a vegetarian diet. It can help a person live a healthier life by reducing the risk of different types of health challenges and issues.
Many of the foods eaten in a vegetarian diet are naturally low in fat, high in fibre, and rich in antioxidants. Eating a vegetarian diet can also reduce the risk of obesity.
A balanced vegetarian diet can be a healthy way to get more vitamins, minerals, and fibre into the body. It is good for the environment too. According to the Vegetarian Society, UK (2022) eating a vegetarian diet is one of the best things people can do to stop climate change. It can reduce carbon emissions by 2.5x and by eating vegetarian foods for a year a person could save the same amount of emissions as a family taking a small car off the road for 6 months.
The meat industry produces large amounts of greenhouse gases, which has been linked to rising temperatures and climate change. According to Milman (2021) meat accounts for approximately 60% of all greenhouse gases from food production. Surely, eating a vegetarian diet is one way to reduce the environmental footprint.
Disadvantages of a vegetarian diet
While a vegetarian diet can be good for health, it also has a number of drawbacks. Certain nutrients are crucial for human body. Being a vegetarian reduces the availability of those nutrients and therefore, vegetarians need to be aware of how to get enough of those nutrients into their diet.
New vegetarians often think that they may not have enough meal options. Likewise, it may not be always easy to follow a strict vegetarian diet as there are many hidden animal products in foods that consumers would not expect to be there.
It is sometimes difficult to find restaurants offering vegetarian meals as most of them are geared towards meat eaters. Those restaurants that offer vegetarian options are usually limited in their offerings. Also, some vegetarians are concerned about potential contamination in food processing.
Vegetarian diets are sometime very expensive. Abdulla (2022) reports that fruits and vegetables have high fixed costs because of their perishable nature which requires them to be restocked more repeatedly. This drives the prices higher.
Transitioning to a vegetarian diet
For someone who wants to become a vegetarian, it is important to plan the diet in advance to make sure enough of the right nutrients are consumed. If a person is used to a meat rich diet, then it is advisable to start off slowly to make sure they get enough of the key nutrients, such as protein and iron, by including plenty of vegetables, pulses, and whole grains in the diet. Also importantly, they need to decide what types of vegetarians they are going to be.
Vegetarians often get asked about how they get enough protein. The good news is that most people, even vegetarians, can get enough protein. They just need to include a variety of foods in their diet, like beans, lentils, and tofu.
Vitamin B12 is often found in meat; therefore, for vegetarians taking a B12 supplement is a good alternative. Also, they should include foods such as fortified breakfast cereals, fortified soy products, and fortified nutritional yeast into their diet.
Summary of the advantages and disadvantages of a vegetarian diet
A vegetarian diet can be very useful provided it is planned correctly to make sure enough of the right vitamins and minerals are consumed. However, it is also important to remember the fact that a vegetarian diet can lack certain nutrients, such as vitamin B12, iron, zinc, and protein. As long as vegetarians can ensure that they are getting enough of these nutrients by including plenty of vegetables, pulses, and whole grains in their diet, they can lead a healthy lifestyle.
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Last update: 08 November 2022
Abdulla, S. (2022) UK consumers could pay 40% more for fruit and vegetables as supply costs bite, available at: https://uk.news.yahoo.com/fruit-vegetable-prices-could-rise-by-40-as-supply-chain-costs-bite-180037565.html? (accessed 08 November 2022)
Milman, O. (2021) Meat accounts for nearly 60% of all greenhouse gases from food production, available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/sep/13/meat-greenhouses-gases-food-production-study (accessed 07 November 2022)
The Vegetarian Society, UK (2022) What is a vegetarian, available at: https://vegsoc.org/info-hub/definition/ (accessed 07 November 2022)
Author: S Young
S. Young is a freelance fruit carving artist and trainer. With extensive experience in the world of bespoke culinary art, S. Young now writes online regularly, sharing invaluable knowledge. She holds a Diploma in Business Psychology and a Certificate in Fine Arts.