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Kendall Chase S. Ingram English 1103 -036 8 November 2012

Are Vegetarian Diets Healthier? People give various reasons to defend their lifestyle choice of being vegetariansmoral or political beliefs, religious expectations, economics, and especially the desire to eat healthier (Shannon). Vegetarianism consists of eliminating meat and/or animal products from your diet and increasing your intake of whole foods, such as vegetables, fruits, and grains, eliminating the cholesterol and saturated fats that meat contains; however, it also cuts out our main source of protein. This often provokes arguments about whether or not vegetarianism is actually healthier for you due to the need to substitute necessary proteins and nutrients. A number of studies indicate that vegetarianism is a healthier lifestyle; however, only a few researchers have examined the underlying factors, such as restrictive dieting, exercise, and absence of harmful habits that most of these vegetarians engage themselves in to create this healthier lifestyle. I believe that it is not only the types of food that vegetarians eat that make them healthier, but also the activities in which they are involved. Most people who oppose vegetarianism do not understand that there are several other ways to gain the protein and nutrients that meat provides in a normal diet. Protein can be easily substituted and does not always have to come from meat, tofu, or soy products. Beans and nuts are the most common substitution for protein. In fact, even simply eating the right

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vegetables, such as the leafy greens, and whole grains can steadily add up your protein intake (Vegetarian Resource Group). However, it is just as easy for a vegetarian to be as unhealthy as the next person. If vegetarians were to substitute their meat intake with foods that are fried, full-fat cheeses, whole milk, nuts, and/or commercial meat substitutes, then they would be taking in more total and saturated fats than some omnivores (Kimball). However, if a person was to correctly perform a vegetarian diet, then he or she would have the correct amounts of each food group- excluding meat- and nutrients that a human being needs to be healthy. Omnivores can, in return, be just as healthy as vegetarians by keeping a closer look at the variety of foods that they eat and sticking to the food pyramid closer. Most vegetarians are health conscious, making sure to exercise regularly to maintain a desirable body weight, and eating healthy foods (ACSH). Because they made the choice to restrict the foods that they eat, vegetarians take more caution in picking out which foods to eat. This awareness of the unhealthy items they digest causes them to eat sweets and fatty foods sparingly and only as well-deserved treats. Another positive aspect that comes along with restricting foods is that these vegetarian diets come closer to meeting the official dietary guidelines than the typical omnivore diet because of the increase in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Of course, it is not necessary to become a vegetarian in order to meet these dietary guidelines. Eliminating meat is one way to reduce the amount of saturated fat in your diet, replacing it with more plant foods (Kimball). Vegetarianism puts a lighter food weight in your body, making it easier to digest these foods. Already a vegetarian digests his or her meal within three to four hours; however, there are even more digestion benefits when including exercise into a daily routine. With many vegetarian diets comes the well-known exercise of Yoga; it is often that

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these two go hand in hand in the life-style choices of vegetarians, because the yogic diet puts emphasis on vegetarian and dairy products. This is for two reasons- “firstly: the principles of Yoga are based on the laws of the Mother Nature, and secondly it purely believes in the core nature” (Bhatt). Dedicated vegetarians often believe that the closer to nature you are, the healthier you are, and the more you are away from her, the more you are sick and ill (Bhatt). Yoga is a special exercise that connects your mind and body, controlling your breathing and calming the mind through relaxation and meditation. Not only does this form of exercise assist with proper digestion, it also reduces blood sugar levels, exercises the muscles, and improves balance (Harvard). Exercise is one of the many things that many vegetarians think about throughout their day to day activities. Of course, there are also other important aspects to a healthy life other than just eating and exercising. Studies show that vegetarians are also more likely to refrain from smoking, abusing illegal drugs, and abusing alcohol (Kimball). Generally, people who are so concerned about their health that they turn to vegetarianism would never risk putting harmful substances in their bodies. Often due to their moral beliefs, many vegetarians do not even consider smoking or drinking to be an option in their routines. The results from these studies are also intertwined with the result from other studies stating that generally vegetarians are in a higher socioeconomic status than others. “People who are vegetarians by choice are different compared to the general population in other ways relevant to health. For example, in Western countries most vegetarians are more affluent than non-vegetarians and thus have better living conditions and more access to medical care” (ACSH). Therefore, with more medical care and money to buy healthier, organic foods, these vegetarians also have an advantage to a healthier life-style.

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In my experience as a vegetarian, I can honestly state that after just a week engaging myself in this lifestyle, I felt much better. Having to stick with this diet, I have started to eat much healthier foods- more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Not only do I make sure that I eat a well-balanced meal every day, I am also more aware of which food has certain nutrients and proteins. I also walk all the time, making sure to stay active and add in at least a little bit of exercise each day. In fact, I am even beginning to take some yoga classes to add to my exercise routine. Just after a week of experiencing this new lifestyle, I already felt so much more energetic and better about myself than before. These changes have made me become more aware of the items that I put into my body and the activities that I engage in. Vegetarianism is healthier for quite a few reasons but

only if it is done correctly. The more plant foods you intake, the better chances you have of actually fulfilling your daily requirements of the foods contained in the food pyramid instead of constantly filling yourself with empty calories. A person cannot just focus on his or her intake of food and be satisfied with this change of lifestyle. In order to become an overall healthier person, you must pay attention to your eating, exercise, and substance abuse habits.

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Works Cited ACSH, “Is Vegetarianism Healthier than Non-Vegetarianism?” , American Council on Science and Health, http://www.acsh.org/opinion/is-vegetarianism-healthier-thannonvegetarianism/, July 1997, Web Article. Bhatt, Manjari , “Diet and Yoga,” 2006 http://www.healthandyoga.com/html/news/food/diet.aspx, Web Article. Harvard Medical School, “It’s No Stretch- Yoga May Benefit Heart Disease”, http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/it%E2%80%99s-no-stretch-yoga-maybenefit-heart-disease, 10 May 2011, Web Article. Kimball, Chad T. Vegetarian Sourcebook “Chapter 9: Are Vegetarian Diets Healthier?” Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2002. Print. Shannon, Joyce Brennfleck. Diet and Nutrition Sourcebook “Chapter 32: Vegetarianism”. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2006. Print. Vegetarian Resource Group, “Vegetarianism in a Nutshell”, http://www.vrg.org/nutshell/nutshell.htm#nut, 2012, Web Article.