How healthy is it really to be a vegetarian?March 18, 2020
Being a vegetarian and still being healthy? Yeah, that is possible. However, the myth that a meatless diet causes many deficiency symptoms and is therefore unhealthy is still persistent.
In fact, vegetarians are statistically healthier than meat eaters. The most important thing is to eat a balanced diet, whether with or without meat.
Find out how healthy it really is to live a vegetarian life and what you should bear in mind when eating meat-free.
- What are vegetarians allowed to eat?
- Why it is healthy to be a vegetarian
- Whether with or without meat – it has to be balanced!
- This is what you should keep in mind as a vegetarian
What are vegetarians allowed to eat?
Which foods vegetarians integrate into their diet can be as individual as the motives for a meatless diet. Some people abstain from meat for the well-being of the animals, some live vegetarian or vegan lives for the sake of the environment and others do it for their health.
Studies show that vegetarians and vegans live healthier lives than meat eaters. This is mainly due to the fact that they are more concerned with their nutrition and health than mixed dietitians.
By definition, there are different forms of vegetarianism:
- Pescetarian: renouncing meat, but not fish
- Ovo-lacto-vegetarian: no meat and fish
- Lacto-vegetarian: eat no meat, fish and eggs, but eat milk and dairy products
- Ovo-vegetarian: eat no meat, fish, milk or dairy products, but eat eggs
- Vegan: abstaining from meat, fish, eggs, milk and other products derived from animals, such as honey
- Flexitarian: Diet is predominantly vegetarian or even vegan, but occasionally meat and fish are eaten
Why it is healthy to be a vegetarian
By abstaining from meat and sausages, vegetarians consume less saturated fatty acids with bad cholesterol. As a result, vegetarians are less likely to suffer from cardiovascular diseases or stomach and intestinal disorders and are less likely to suffer from high blood pressure or elevated blood lipid levels.
Vegetarians are also less frequently affected by overweight. This is the case as in general those who do not eat meat, tend to consume more healthy foods.
Those who follow a balanced vegetarian diet can, therefore, be healthier than the average person.
Although there are many reasons for choosing a vegetarian diet, there are often doubts. Concerns are raised mainly about the sufficient protein supply or the lack of iron and vitamin B12.
That is why we have taken a closer look at these questions for you. We tell you what is really important and how you can live a healthy vegetarian life.
Whether with or without meat – it has to be balanced!
Fruit and vegetables should be a major part of the diet, not only for vegetarians but also for people who eat a mixed diet as they provide important dietary fibers and vitamins.
Our Verival products can help you with breakfast because we prefer to use whole grains for our mueslis and porridges.
Healthy fats, on the other hand, are ingested through nuts, seeds, vegetable oils and fats.
Vegetarians, on the other hand, get the necessary protein from pulses such as beans, lentils or chickpeas. Tofu and tempeh are also popular sources of protein. Vegetarians who include animal products in their diet can also take in additional protein through eggs, milk and other dairy products.
This is what you should keep in mind as a vegetarian
Many myths have been created about why it is unhealthy to be a vegetarian. We take a closer look at the ones that are best known.
Myth 1: Vegetarians do not take in enough protein
Along with carbohydrates and fat, protein is one of the three basic building blocks of our body. It is primarily responsible for the formation of body tissue. Consequently, a protein deficiency leads to a disturbance of various bodily functions.
The daily protein requirement of an adult person is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. In the vegetarian diet, fish and meat are no longer sources of protein. However, vegetarians and vegans in industrialized countries are hardly affected by a protein deficiency. There are enough plant-based alternatives to simply cover the daily requirement.
Here are the most important vegan protein suppliers at a glance:
- Grains (oats, millet, wheat, rye, etc.)
- Legumes (beans, lentils or peas)
- Nuts, seeds or pseudo-grains (buckwheat and amaranth)
- Soy and soy products, such as tofu and tempeh
In contrast to meat and fish, these protein sources also contain important fibre. However, you will not find fibre in meat and fish.
If you are a vegetarian, you can also include eggs, milk and dairy products into your diet.
Myth 2: Vegetarians suffer from an iron deficiency
Iron is the most common nutrient that is not supplied sufficiently worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 30% of all people suffer from iron deficiency. But again, developing countries are more affected than industrialized countries.
Since animal products have a high iron content, vegans and vegetarians are actually more affected by iron deficiency.
However, if you pay a little attention about what you consume and eat a balanced diet, you have nothing to worry about.
You can find iron in numerous vegetable foods, such as:
- Nuts and kernels (e.g. pumpkin seeds)
- Seeds (e.g. linseed)
- Wholemeal cereals
- Dried fruit (e.g. dates)
- Vegetables (e.g. spinach, chard)
However, plant-based iron is less easily absorbed by the body than iron from animal products. Therefore, it is necessary to combine them smartly. For example, vitamin C improves the absorption of iron.
One possible combination: Enjoy a glass of orange juice in the morning with your favourite VERIVAL muesli. With vitamin C from oranges, you can better absorb the iron contained in your muesli.
Another tip: A splash of lemon on your vegetables helps to absorb the vegetable iron.
In addition, you should not combine foods containing iron with milk or dairy products, as they inhibit iron absorption.
For this reason, vegetarians are more likely to be iron deficient than vegans. Since vegans do not eat any animal products and therefore, they completely eliminate milk from their diet.
Myth 3: Vitamin B12 is only contained in animal products
Vitamin B12 is the only vitamin that has to be taken in with food and is only found in relevant amounts in animal products. For this reason, vegans may have a hard time covering their daily vitamin B12 requirements in the long run. According to recommendations, this is 3 micrograms per day.
The vitamin plays an important role in blood formation and cell division. It is also important for our nervous system and contributes to a functioning immune system.
A lack of vitamin B12 often manifests itself through tiredness, concentration difficulties and neurological symptoms such as tingling in the fingertips. However, our body can store its vitamin B12 reserves for several years. This means that a deficiency often only becomes apparent very late.
Since vitamin B12 is not only found in meat, but also in eggs, cheese and milk, vegetarians can cover their daily requirements with these foods.
People who do not eat any animal products should take vitamin B12 in the form of supplements to avoid a deficiency.
In any case, regular blood tests should also be carried out to detect a deficiency in time. However, this also applies to meat eaters and not only to vegetarians and vegans.
Myth 4: Vegetarians cannot cover their omega-3 requirements
Omega-3 fatty acids are among the essential fatty acids. This means that they cannot be produced by the body itself and must be taken in with food. They are particularly important for heart health and the normal functioning of our brain.
You may have heard that fish contains a particularly large amount of healthy fat. This includes mainly cold-water fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel or herring.
In contrast to vitamin B12, however omega-3 is also found in vegetable oils such as linseed oil, rapeseed oil or walnut oil. In addition, the requirement can be covered by nuts and seeds.
Vegetarians who pay attention to their diet do not have to fear a deficiency. Omega-3 can easily be integrated into your breakfast, for example by using a handful of nuts as a porridge topping.
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