The idea of vegetarianism is a rather controversial one. Some people consider it to be the holy grail of healthy life while others consider vegetarians to be crazy. The main idea is to avoid eating meat, often accompanied with a belief that meat is bad for human health. As with pretty much every dietary theory, it is not certain whether vegetarianism is the best way or not. In the end it gets down to personal preferences and ability of aspiring vegetarian to compose his meals so that they would cover all the nutritional needs of his/her body. Nevertheless, one cannot view vegetarianism strictly as bad or good since it has both advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages of vegetarianism
One advantage that cannot be disputed is that vegetarian’s conscience can be at peace in the sense that he does not cause the death of animals grown for meat and fat such as rabbits, poultry or pigs. This idea alone persuades many people, especially women to start embracing vegetarianism as their way of life.
Another undisputable advantage of vegetarianism is that long-term vegetarians are rarely overweight thus people can make losing weight easier by becoming vegetarians. Of course, they will still need to compose their diet very carefully since many of the high-calorie (with low nutritional value) foods contain no meat at all. Actually, meat is not high on calories unless it is a fatty meat.
Less clear and more arguable is the claim that vegetarianism is healthier and better for one’s longevity. All advocates of vegetarianism play this card and support their claims with many arguments. The basic idea is that our body can get everything it needs from plants or animal by-products such as eggs or milk. Of course, there are extreme groups who refuse to eat animal by-products, but I’ll stick with the less extreme idea.
Anyway, this is true, at least as long as you eat fish – some people who consider themselves vegetarians eat fish, some don’t. Anyway, no one can say with absolute certainty (you can believe it, but cannot prove it indisputably) that avoiding all meat is beneficial for human body. However, it is certain that limiting certain types of meat is good for us. And vegetarians benefit from avoiding those kinds of meat (after all they do not eat any meat).
Disadvantages of vegetarianism
Some people point out only the disadvantages of vegetarianism. This is not fair either. However, regardless of what vegetarian zealots preach, this way of life has its disadvantages too. Probably the biggest disadvantage and danger of vegetarianism is that many vegetarians fail to make a balanced menu for themselves. Even if you stop eating meat, your body still needs nutrients it was providing and it is much more difficult to supplement them with vegetables and fruits. In fact many (if not all) vegetarians have to rely on store-bought food supplements, if they want to remain healthy in long-term.
Constant hunger is another disadvantage, although it is one of those that are not experienced by every vegetarian. However, many vegetarians account that they rarely feel their hunger was fulfilled after finishing their meal. In fact, I felt the same when I went longer periods of time without meat other than fish – several weeks to up to two months. Though I am not a vegetarian and I never planned nor tried to become one.
Health problems, no longevity and overall skinny appearance are another part that vegetarian zealots leave out. A vegetarian on well-balanced diet can avoid all these. However, many vegetarians cannot balance their diet well enough (this is even more true in case of vegans). They often lose a lot of weight fast and look like walking skin-covered skeletons after some time. Their overall health declines and they either change their diet or die relatively young. Every vegetarian I have ever known or came into personal contact with was very skinny (which is considered ugly by vast majority of people) and of weak health. I have never met a long-term vegetarian (someone who lived on this kind of diet for many years, decades or most of their lives) who would be more than 50-60 years old. The same is true for my friends and relatives – they have never met a long-term vegetarian who would be still alive at that age. This implies that you have lesser chance to achieve longevity as a vegetarian.
To conclude, one cannot view vegetarianism in strictly positive or negative light and be fair. As many other dietary theories, it has its advantages and disadvantages. It is up to you to consider all of them before you decide whether you want to become a vegetarian or not. Advantages of vegetarianism are that you do not cause live stock to suffer and die, possibility to lose weight more easily and vegetarians claim they are healthier. On the other hand, it is difficult to compose a vegetarian menu that would cover all nutritional needs of vegetarian’s body. Many vegetarians fail to do so and their overall health and appearance suffer in consequence. Also, vegetarians often fail to feel that their hunger was fulfilled after eating their meal.
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