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Vegetarian and Non Vegetarian Healthier Diet Term Paper

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Updated: Mar 13th, 2022

As the old proverb that has its roots in the Bible, goes, “Man shall not live by bread alone” (King James Version Matthew 4:4). There are two ways, in which this wise idea can be interpreted: on the one hand, spiritual life and positive emotions and feelings are necessary for healthy and harmonious life of all people. On the other hand, it can be interpreted literary, that bread cannot become the main and the only ingredient of a healthy diet. Probably, the supporters of non-vegetarian diet can adopt this proverb as the motto for their concept of a healthy diet. However, there are people who would eagerly try to refute this proverb; these people are called vegetarians and the idea of vegetarianism in not new though the term “vegetarian” was coined only in mid-1800s (Mangels et al. 3). However, the concept of vegetarianism goes back to the sixth century BC, when a well-known Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras promoted meatless eating as natural and healthy and the idea was also supported by other men of wisdom, such as Socrates, Plato, Horace, etc. (Mangels et al. 3). In fact, the men of wisdom supported a really beneficial type of nutrition. Vegetarian diet is healthier than non-vegetarian one since it supplies a person with all necessary elements and vitamins for physical health and it helps to prevent chronic diseases.

First, the benefit of a vegetarian diet is that it may be flexible since one should not reduce the notion of vegetarianism to eating vegetables only. A range of the vegetarian diets covers several different types of diets a person may choose the one suitable for him/her personally on the basis of the reasons that are significant for him/her, such as ethical, ecological, reasons, health concerns, or philosophic reasons (Phillips 135). If in general, a vegetarian is “a person who does not eat meat, fish or fowl, or any products containing these items”, there are more lenient types of vegetarian diets (Samples 68). For instance, there are lacto-vegetarians, who are people who let themselves eat dairy products but eggs are not allowed in their diet, also, there are ovo-vegetarians – people, who admit eggs to their diet but exclude dairy products from it, and there are also lacto-ovo-vegetarians, admitting both dairy and eggs to their diets (Edelstein and Sharlin 229). Also, Phillips defines demi-vegetarians who eat meat occasionally and pesco-vegetarians who eat fish (135). Thus, a range of vegetarian diet can satisfy all demands and requirements of a person depending on the reasons for his/her decision of sticking to a diet.

Second, a well-balanced vegetarian diet provides the necessary amount of energy for a person. Even if meat consumption is considered to provide about 15% of energy, the same amount of energy can be received from energy-dense vegetarian food, such as, for instance, “vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, and foods prepared with vegetable oils such as pastries, cakes, and biscuits” (Phillips 138). Besides, the research in the sphere has proved that the amount of energy intake is similar if vegetarian diet and meat-eating diet are compared and it concerns both adults and children (Phillips 138).

Third, fat that is necessary for health and, according to the studies conducted in the sphere of dietetics, semi-vegetarians and lacto-ovo-vegetarians consume similar or a little bit lower amount of fat than non-vegetarian as those who stick to these diets consume fat from other food sources (Phillips 139). Besides, some studies have proved that vegan’s intakes of fat better correspond to the recommendations for adults, at least in the UK (Phillips 139). It is commonly known that intensive consumption of saturated fat increases serum cholesterol that is the major cause of cardiovascular disease that can be avoided in case if a person reduces consumption of animal fat and substitute vegetable fats for animal fats (Phillips 139). Robeznieks reports about a study that has determined that lacto-ovo vegetarians have low level of cholesterol in their blood (14).Thus, vegetable fats provide necessary amount of energy and eliminate the possibility of the increase of cholesterol level that is harmful for health.

Fourth, carbohydrate is an essential for healthy metabolism and vegetarian diets contain more carbohydrates, mainly complex carbohydrates than omnivorous diets (Sabate and Ratzin-Turner 103). In fact, healthy nutrition should provide about a half of energy from the consumption of “complex carbohydrates and from sugars derived from milk, fruit, and vegetables”, which are admissible for vegetarians (Phillips 141). Besides, dietitians encourage people to include more fiber to the diet and fiber-rich foods include unrefined cereals, fruits, and vegetables that are the basis of a traditional vegetarian diet (Phillips 141).

In addition to nutrients, vitamins strengthen people’s immunity and a vegetarian diet can be adequate in all the vitamins necessary for a human organism (Mangels 170). However, there is great concern about the lack of vitamins B12 and D in vegan and lacto-ovo vegetarian diets (Mangels 170). Still, regular consumption of dairy products can provide lacto-ovo vegetarians with the necessary amount of vitamin B12 while vegans can find its supply in fortified foods, such as, for instance, cereals, nutritional yeast, and soy milk (Samples 69). Besides, Robeznieks says that the requirement for the vitamin B12 is rather low, and the cases of its deficiency are very scarce as the amount of the vitamin provided by vegetarian food is sufficient (14). As for vitamin D, that is one more “weapon” of the opponents of vegetarianism whose main motivation is that the lack of vitamin D can interfere with normal bone metabolism and can lead to such serious consequences as rickets or osteoporosis (Samples 69). However, there are vegetarian products that are rich in vitamin D and can provide its adequate level in a vegetarian diet. Such are, for instance, fortified milk products, fatty fish, for instance, salmon, and eggs from hens that are fed vitamin D (Samples 69). What is more, a human body, mainly skin, is the producer of vitamin D itself though it depends on a number of factors, such as the season or the geographic location where a person lives.

In addition to the vitamins, minerals make up an essential part of a diet that is considered full and healthy and skilled and careful planning of a diet for a vegetarian will ensure that a person gets all necessary minerals (Phillips 141). For instance, iron is a necessary constituent of hemoglobin and it is vital for health. If heme iron that meat products contain is easy for absorption, nonheme iron that vegetarian foods, such as dairy, eggs, bread, and cereals provide is not so readily absorbed as the first type of this mineral. However, a reasonable vegetarian diet will combine the products that contain nonheme iron with the products rich in the vitamin C, such as, for example, tomatoes or blackcurrant and the vitamin C will assist in the absorption of iron.

On justifying the sufficiency of the components of a vegetarian diet in comparison with a non-vegetarian diet, it is possible to pass on to the exact advantages of a vegetarian diet in contrast to an omnivorous diet. The first and foremost is that a vegetarian diet is one of the best weapons that can be used against overweight and obesity. It is especially important if Americans are the subject for analysis as “Americans are obsessed with food” (Melina and Davis 255). As it is proven by statistical data, more than 55% of American population is overweight and during the last three decades have doubled for adults and, what is more, tripled for children (Melina and Davis 255). These figures prove the seriousness of the problem. However, “vegetarians are at a distinct advantage where body weight is concerned” (Melina and Davis 255). The main reason for evident thinness of vegetarians in comparison with meat-consumers is that they consume less saturated fat that has been discussed above in its relation to health problems. In fact, polyunsaturated fat increases metabolic rates and eliminates the possibility of weight gain in contrast to saturated fat (Melina and Davis 256). Besides, it has been mentioned already that vegetarians consume more fiber than meat-eaters. Fiber also has positive impact on weight as it influences short-term food intake (Sabate and Ratzin-Turner 102) adding bulk to a diet but adding no calories at the same time. Fiber is also beneficial for digestion and it can reduce hunger making the breaks between food intakes longer. Finally, Sabate and Ratzin-Turner mention the benefit of great amount of fiber in a diet for prevention of obesity (103). It becomes a preventive measure for people prone to obesity as fiber can reduce absorption of fat and cause weight loss though it demands long-term vegetarian diet.

Vegetarian diet is also considered a valuable factor that helps to reduce risks of cancer. Phillips mentions plant-derived foods as the components of a diet aimed at the reduction of the risk of cancer and he mentions the studies that prove significant reduction of the cases of “oesophagus, lung, stomach and colorectum” cancer if the consumption of fruit and vegetables is encouraged (156). Besides, the harmful effect of meat on health and its contribution to the increase of cancer rates has been proven already. Robeznieks mentions the study that has shown connection of ovarian cancer and breast cancer and consumption of meat fat (12-13). At the same time, researchers agree that overall cancer rate among vegetarian population is significantly lower than among the rest of people (Mangels at al. 31).

Since diabetes has recently reached almost epidemic proportions in the greater part of the countries of the world, the evidence that proves that vegetarians are less likely to have diabetes seems a significant strong point of a vegetarian diet. Snowdon and Phillips have conducted a study that was aimed at the poof of the hypothesis that a vegetarian diet reduced the risk of the development of diabetes (507). The hypothesis was successfully proven and the authors showed that meat consumption was positively associated with self-reported diabetes (Snowdon and Phillips 510).

In addition to the prevention of chronic diseases, vegetarian diet also prolongs the life of people who stick to it. Melina and Davis claim that vegetarians live seven to nine years longer than non-vegetarians (4). Phillips has analyzed the mortality rates among vegetarians and has reached a conclusion that there is a “decrease in all-cause mortality risk for very low or zero intake of meat relative to higher intake of meat” (153). It may well be that above analyzed health problems are significant factors contributing to the decrease of death rates among vegetarians in comparison with meat-eaters. Besides, vegetarians tend to adopt an overall healthier life style than meat-eaters and this may be one more factor that influences their comparative longevity.

However, the opposing point of view of people who disapprove of vegetarianism should be considered too. One of the chief arguments of meat-eaters that condemn vegetarian diets is that they create a shortage of proteins. This claim is unsubstantial since “protein needs can be met with plant foods” (Samples 68). Though there is lack of an important amino acid in the proteins provided by grains, nuts, seeds, etc. these incomplete proteins can combine to create complete proteins if they are consumed in suitable proportions (Samples 69). Also, if some people claim that meatless diet is harmful for certain people, for instance, nursing mothers, this idea can also be refuted as Robeznieks has proven with his study that there are less chemical pollutants in breast milk of vegetarian nursing mothers in comparison with meat consuming women (13).

Considering all that is mentioned above, it is possible to conclude that a reasonably planned vegetarian diet is healthier than a non-vegetarian diet. Since there is great variety of possible vegetarian diets ranging from very strict to more lenient, a person may choose the one that suits him/her best of all. If a dietitian provides a person with a vegetarian diet that meets all the demands as per nutrients and vitamins, this diet can help a person to reduce the risks of serious diseases, such as cancer, obesity, diabetes (greatly provoked by meat consumption), and it can even contribute to a vegetarian’s longevity.

Works Cited

Edelstein, Sari, and Judith Sharlin. Life Cycle Nutrition: An Evidence-Based Approach. Sudbury, MA: John & Bartlett Publishers, 2009.

Mangels, Reed, Messina, Virginia, and Mark Messina. The Dietitian’s Guide to Vegetarian Diets: Issues and Applications. Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2004.

Melina, Vesano, and Brenda Davis. The New Becoming Vegetarian: The Essential Guide to a Healthy Vegetarian Diet. Summertown, TN: Book Publishing Company, 2003.

Phillips, Frankie. “Vegetarian Nutrition.” Nutrition Bulletin. 30 (2005): 132-167.

Robeznieks, Andis. “What Nutritional Research Is Finding out about Vegetarian Diet.” Vegetarian Times. (1986): 11-14.

Sabate, Joan, and Rosemary Ratzin-Turner. Vegetarian Nutrition. USA: CRC Press, 2001.

Samples, Evangeline Yvonne. “Is a Vegetarian Diet for You?” American Fitness. (2009): 68-69.

Snowdon, David, and Phillips, Roland L. “Does a Vegetarian Diet Reduce the Occurrence of Diabetes?” American Journal of Public Health. 75.5 (1985): 507-512.

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