5 Reasons Why Vegetarianism/Veganism is Overrated
Vegan and vegetarian diets have become increasingly popular, and credited with a wide array of health benefits, from longer life expectancy to cancer prevention. But how much validity is there to all those claims, which stem from many sources that certainly vary in terms of credibility? Are these diets more fad than we realize?
Before you trade in that chicken leg for a bundle of kale …
There are plenty of dieters who follow a vegan or vegetarian regime while still eating a considerable amount of junk food. The foods pictured below happen to be vegan, and a stroll through the aisles at Whole Foods will reveal all kinds of high sugar, preservative- and artificial ingredient-laden processed foods using “vegan” labels to pass themselves off as healthy.
On the flip side, there are plenty of health conscious eaters who consume a lot of raw fruits and vegetables with a few servings of meat and dairy each day. Giving up those two food groups isn’t a magic bullet solution to curing your health, you still need to make healthy food choices.
If you live in a developed country, such as America, than you have an embarrassment of riches available to you as far as food goes. Before the agricultural revolution (when humans effectively removed themselves from the food chain), our ancestors had to eat whatever food happened to be available at a given time, because they didn’t always know when they would have an opportunity to eat again, especially during prolonged famines.
If meat was available and plant foods weren’t providing enough sustenance, they ate it. The ability to pick and choose which food groups to eat and which to omit is a modern luxury.
Much of the veg-propaganda revolves around the notion that a meat- and dairy-free diet will help you live longer, decrease your risk of cancer, keep your cholesterol and blood pressure at healthy levels, etc.; however, those benefits are derived from comparing a vegan/vegetarian diet to the standard American diet (mostly processed foods and junk foods).
When you compare vegans and vegetarians to a sample size of people who eat a well balanced diet that includes all the food groups, according to research, there isn’t a discernible difference in long term health benefits..
Yes, it’s easy to consume a sufficient amount of protein in terms of grams, but vegans and vegetarians aren’t always careful about consuming adequete amounts of complete protein sources. The essential amino acids (which are important because they’re the only amino acids the body can’t produce on its own) are all present in meat and dairy sources.
Quinoa is the only veg source of complete protein, so unless you’re eating it regularly, a vegan or vegetarian needs to be sure to eat things like rice and beans, corn and wheat and other combos that combine to give you all nine essential amino acids.
Vitamin B12 is another important nutrient that requires supplementation for vegans and vegetarians because its only food sources are meat and dairy. A deficiency in this vitamin can lead to pale skin, light headedness and a sore tongue, among other symptoms. Pregnant women who are B12 deficient are also at risk of giving birth to B12 deficient babies.
Forty-six percent of food poisoning cases are caused by fruits and vegetables, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only 22 percent are caused by meat, despite prevalent concerns over E. coli and salmonella contamination in our animal sources of food.
The jury might still be out as far as long term risks for cancer go, but building your diet on a foundation of fruits and vegetables certainly puts you at a greater risk for illness in the short term.
The bottom line is not to value diets as much as you should value nutrients. As long as you cut out all processed foods (no matter if the box says vegan, fat free, sugar free, etc.) it’s hard to go wrong. If you decide to eliminate any food groups, make sure you do your homework as far as what vitamins and minerals you’re missing out on so you can supplement accordingly.
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About Luke Harold Luke Harold is a journalist who has written for publications including the Philadelphia Inquirer and Orange County Register.