Are you a veggie hipster like me? Were you also a vegetarian before it was “cool”? Ok give me a second to defend myself against the ones that might be thinking, “wow, this girl is full of it thinking she’s cool as heck.” The truth is, I never really liked meat. I was forced to eat it like brussels sprouts, peas and broccoli. I never put much thought behind the decision like others might have, but it still really affected me, especially when it came to my health.
Since I became a vegetarian for no other reason than “taste” and “texture” I ran into problems. Some of these problems included improper nutrition, weight fluctuation, fatigue and iron deficiency. It took me eight years to get well informed about my nutrition and finally feel healthy. And I definitely care a lot more about animals too! I share this with you because I want to get rid of any stereotype that it’s automatically healthier to have a vegetarian diet.
A proper vegetarian diet is one full of nuts, legumes, vegetables, fruits and grains. A lacto-ovo vegetarian like myself, includes eggs and dairy into their diet. Over the years, I have learned to balance what I need in a day and not overdose on cheese and carbs. Believe it or not, my mood has improved and is at it’s best when I am getting the proper nutrition I need. When I looked into this, I found that “omnivorous diets” are high in omega-6 (something mainly found in red meat and poultry) which “promotes changes in the brain that can negatively disturb our mood”.
No, this does not mean that eating meat makes you mean or anything like that. It is just an observation that sometimes we can adjust our mood by making small changes to our diet. This does not necessarily mean becoming a vegetarian, maybe just eating more like a vegetarian. A study in the British Journal of Health and Psychology examined the diets of almost 300 young adults. Each of them completed daily food logs for three weeks, while also recording changes in their mood. The scientists found that “a higher intake of produce resulted in more energy, calmness and greater feelings of happiness” throughout the day. It is like your mom probably told you, broccoli makes you strong- emotionally strong!
One of the best things about being a healthy vegetarian is that it makes me regular. Ya know, it makes me have a positive digestive experience on the daily. I know for a fact that I complain of less digestive issues than any of my meat-eating friends or family. That is, when I am eating a proper vegetarian diet like the one I mentioned before! Since this kind of diet is high in fibre it keeps things moving through your digestive system. So before you think about cutting gluten or dairy from your diet, you might want to cut down or cut out the meat and replace it with vegetables. On the other hand, if being a vegetarian isn’t working for you, ask yourself: are you eating enough fibre? FIBRE IS YOUR FRIEND.
Also, did you know that being a vegetarian is surprisingly good for your bones? Straight up, scientists used to think animal protein was great for bone health but PSYCH….Animal protein actually promotes calcium excretion and the risk of fractures and osteoporosis. Plant protein does not seem to show the same negative effect on bones, this is one of the moments where I have difficulty defending meat.
Just as you wear sunscreen on your face as a preventative measure, eating lots of fruits and vegetables is just the same. Let me elaborate. Sunscreen helps prevent wrinkle formation and eating produce helps keep your heart healthy, both of which can become major issues as you age. A study from Harvard with 76,000 participants showed vegetarians were 25 per cent less likely to die from heart disease. This is not surprising because healthy vegetarian diets are lower in cholesterol and saturated fats (both which are bad for your heart). But also don’t forget that these studies were conducted on vegetarians who eat a diet rich in nuts, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. These foods are rich in flavonoids that help reduce heart disease.
Some vegetables, grains, legumes and herbs have been identified as even having cancer protective properties. Winston Craig, MPH, PhD, RD provides a list here in his article. It’s actually very helpful for everyone because omnivores can consciously include these foods in their diet too!
It’s important to remember we can all eat foods that are good for our hearts and ward off diseases. However, we must do certain things in conjunction with that, like exercise and not smoking.
I am hoping all of the optimistic studies and articles are right and that it is healthier to be a vegetarian. One pervasive study by the Journal of American Medicine Association looked at the health and dietary data of over 73,000 Seventh Day Adventists with different eating patterns. The study found that “vegetarian dietary patterns may be associated with reduced mortality”. I will be honest with you, I personally sure as hell hope this is right and that vegetarians will outlive us all.