Common Questions About Becoming a Vegetarian
What is a Vegetarian?
Generally speaking, a vegetarian is a person who does not eat meat, fowl, fish or any by-product such as bonemeal, animal fats or gelatin. Vegetarians live on a diet of grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruit - some vegetarians eat eggs, milk and milk products. Vegetarians who avoid all flesh and meat products, and eat only plant-based foods are called vegans.
Part or Semi-Vegetarians
You don't HAVE to give up ALL flesh to be a vegetarian. You can be a part-vegetarian who eats (say) fish or a little chicken. Vegetarianism doesn't demand obedience to a set of strict veggie-rules. So be the kind of vegetarian you WANT to be, and follow the sort of vegetarian diet you WANT to follow. The Vegan Police ain't gonna arrest ya!!
Is it Difficult
Being a Vegetarian?
Not really. Vegetarian food is widely available in most shops and eating places. Vegetarian food is easy to cook - many of your snack meals may already be 'vegetarian'. And there are lots of delicious vegetarian recipes and vegetarian flavors to choose from. On the minus side, because meat supplies a range of different minerals and vitamins, becoming a vegetarian means eating a wider variety of foods than meat-eaters. Because only a variety of vegetarian foods can deliver the nutrients for a healthy diet.
Do I Have to Give Up Using Animal Products (Leather etc.)
No. There are no specific rules about becoming a vegetarian. Be the sort of 'vegetarian' you want to be. Don't let vegans or macrobiotic vegetarians push you around any more than meat-eaters!
But is Vegetarianism Healthy?
Yes. As long as you follow a balanced vegetarian diet, you'll be perfectly healthy. The truth is, a balanced vegetarian eating plan has significant health benefits over the Western meat-diet. That's why medical studies keep showing that vegetarians are less likely to suffer from such illnesses as heart disease, cancer, diet-related diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure.
Is Vegetarian Food as Tasty as Meat?
Yes. Remember, much of the 'taste' we associate with meat is actually 'fat.' And many instant or processed meat-foods are high in salt. So you're often tasting fat and salt - not the meat itself! Besides, a vegetarian meal doesn't mean taking the meat away and leaving the side vegetables. There are loads of different vegetarian tastes you can create from the hundreds of different vegetables, grains, fruit, pulses and nuts and seeds that exist.
Do Vegetarian Foods Take Longer to Cook?
No. The days of soaking dried beans for hours are long gone. Many vegetarian foods are available frozen, or in cans and most food manufacturers now also offer a wide range of ready-made vegetarian dishes. Vegetarian meals can be just as fast as meat-based meals.
I'm Told That Vegetarian Diets Lack Vital Nutrients Like Protein
A well-balanced vegetarian diet provides all the nutrients you need for good health. For example, adequate protein is found in dairy products, eggs and nuts, as well as in combinations of foods such as pulses and grains.
Health Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet
A vegetarian diet provides a wide range of health benefits. Research shows that vegetarians suffer less from many of the dieases associated with the typical Western diet, including obesity, coronary heart disease, hypertension, type II diabetes, diet-related cancers, diverticular disease, constipation and gall stones.
Vegetarian Diets Follow Dietary Guidelines
A typical vegetarian diet reflects most of the dietary recommendations for healthy eating, being low in saturated fat and high in fibre, complex carbohydrates, and fresh fruit and vegetables.
Vegetarian diets Lower in Fat/Lipids
Vegetarian diets tend to be lower in total fat. Taber & Cook (1980) found lacto-ovo vegetarians to consume an average of 35% of energy as fat, compared to omnivores consuming over 40% of energy as fat. A study of the diets of a group of French vegetarians found they had a daily intake of 25% less fat than non-vegetarians (Millet, 1989). Vegetarians also tend to eat proportionally more polyunsaturated fat to saturated fat compared with non-vegetarians. Animal products are the major sources of dietary saturated fat.
U.S. Vegetarian Health: Data from the Adventist Health Study
This is the only major, ongoing study on the general health and mortality of vegetarians in the U.S. Data was collected from 1976-1988.
Of the 34,192 participants, all members of the Seventh-day Adventist church:
" 29% were vegetarian.
" 7-10% of the vegetarians were vegan.
Compared to the non-vegetarians the above vegetarians had about:
" 1/2 the high blood pressure and diabetes
" 1/2 the colon cancer
" 2/3 the rheumatoid arthritis and prostate cancer
" Breast, lung, & uterine cancers tended to be lower in vegetarians but could have been due to random chance.
Vegetarian Life Expectancies
Life expectancies in the Adventist Health Study have recently been published. They show that this group of Seventh-day Adventists appears to be the longest-lived, formally studied population in the world (with an average life span of 78.5 years for men, 82.3 for women).
Health Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet - Summary
Health Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet, a 1999 paper co-authored by two experts on the mortality rates of vegetarians, concludes:
Compared with non-vegetarians, Western vegetarians have a lower mean BMI (by about 1 kg/m(2)), a lower mean plasma total cholesterol concentration (by about 0.5 mmol/l [19 mg/dl]), and a lower mortality from IHD [ischemic heart disease] (by about 25%). They may also have a lower risk for some other diseases such as diverticular disease, gallstones and appendicitis. No differences in mortality from common cancers have been established. There is no evidence of adverse effects on mortality.
Armstrong, B. (1977) Blood pressure in Seventh Day Adventist vegetarians. Am Jnl Epidemiology v.105 p.444-9
British Medical Association (1986). Diet, nutrition and health. BMA, London.
Fraser, G et al (1991) Diet and lung cancer in Seventh Day Adventists. Am Jnl Epidemiology v.133 p.683-93.
Key, T J et al. (1998) Mortality in vegetarians and non-vegetarians: a collaborative analysis of 8,300 deaths among 76,000 men and women in five prospective studies. Public Health Nutrition.
Key, T J. et al. (1999) Health Benefits of a vegetarian diet. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society v.58 p.271-5.
Phillips, R L et al. (1985) Role of lifestyle and dietary habits in risk of cancer amongst Seventh Day Adventists. Cancer Research v.35 (Supplement) p.3513-22.
Phillips, R L et al. (1980) Mortality among California Seventh Day Adventists for selected cancer sites. Jnl National Cancer Institute v.65 p.1097-107.