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Vegetarian Diets: the More Positive Side Is Being Revealed

In: English and Literature

Submitted By atarr
Words 1990
Pages 8
Ashlee Tarr
Miss Smith
Senior English
16 April 2010
Vegetarian Diets:
The More Positive Side Is Being Revealed For many people understanding exactly what a vegetarian is can be difficult. Essentially, a vegetarian is one that does not consume meat. There are, however, several different types of vegetarians that are defined by certain restrictions. For quite some time people have thought of vegetarianism as a negative thing; recently, vegetarianism has become more appealing and accessible thanks to the year-round availability of fresh produce, more vegetarian dining options, and the growing culinary influence of cultures with largely plant-based diets (Becoming a Vegetarian 4-6). The traditional idea concerning vegetarian diets was that there were various nutritional deficiencies. New research, however, highlights the positive side of vegetarianism. In the Western world, the popularity of vegetarianism grew in the 20th century because of the combination of nutritional, ethical, and environmental concerns (Heller). With vegetarianism gaining popularity, many people are more aware of the different forms of the diet. Vegetarian eating covers a broad territory and can run the gamut from people who avoid all animal products to people who simply refrain from eating a few select animal foods (Bauer 185). The strictest type of vegetarian is the vegan. Vegans abstain from eating or using all animal products. They withdraw from eating meat, dairy, and eggs. Vegans also prefer to not wear wool, silk, or leather. Strict vegetarians have to be especially careful when planning their diet (Bauer 185). Vegans need to be responsible about getting adequate protein, iron, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B-12, and zinc. Protein is one of the basic building blocks of the body so it is an essential part of your diet and can influence your strength but probably not your energy. Your muscles are built with protein and in fact protein is made up of 20 amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and 9 are essential, they cannot be created and must be eaten, meaning the other 11 amino acids can be created by our body (Nadraszky). Another type is Lacto-vegetarian. Lacto-vegetarians eliminate meat and eggs but include all dairy products in their diet. Somewhat on the same level as lacto-vegetarians are the Ovolacto-vegetarians (Bauer 185). This group eliminates all meat (red meat, poultry, fish and seafood); however, they do include dairy products and eggs. Semi vegetarians do not eat red meat, but eat most chicken, turkey, and fish, along with all dairy and eggs. The last type is the “Psuedo”-vegetarians (Bauer 185). These are the people who say they are vegetarian one day, but the next they will be inhaling anything in sight. According to registered dietician, Ryan Antrilli, there is not really a “preferred” type of vegetarian; however, with each variation planning becomes more and more restrictive. Also, depending on the nutritional needs of the person, the more restrictive diets may need some sort of vitamin supplement (Antrilli, RD). Whether or not vitamin supplements are necessary is completely dependent on the person’s nutritional needs. Traditionally, research into vegetarianism focused mainly on potential nutritional deficiencies, but in recent years, the pendulum has swung the other way, and studies are confirming the health benefits of meat-free eating (Becoming a Vegetarian 4-6). According to the article, “Becoming a Vegetarian,” plant-based eating is recognized as not only nutritionally sufficient but also as a way to reduce the risk for many chronicle illnesses (4-6). One question individuals might ask is if vegetarianism can protect against major disease. In fact, vegetarian diets are often associated with a number of health advantages, including lower blood cholesterol levels, lower risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure levels, and lower risk of hypertension and type two diabetes (Position of ADA 1266-1282). In one of the largest studies-- a combined analysis of data from five prospective studies involving more than 76,000 participants published several years ago--vegetarians were, on average, 25% less likely to die of heart disease (Becoming a Vegetarian 4-6). Legumes and whole grains are digested slowly and have low glycemic indexes, which are used as protection to the heart. Glycemic indexes help to keep blood sugar levels steady. A study presented in 2008 at the Fifth International Congress on Vegetarian Nutrition suggests that omega-3s from walnuts and fish both work to lower heart disease risk, but by different routes. Walnut omega-3s help reduce total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol, while omega-3s from fish lower triglycerides and raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels (Becoming a Vegetarian 4-6). Vegetarians have also been found to have lower blood lipid levels. Factors in a vegetarian diet that could have a beneficial effect on blood lipid levels include the higher amounts of fiber, nuts, soy, and plant sterols and lower levels of saturated fat (Position of the ADA 1266-1282). Along with protecting against heart disease, vegetarian diets also reduce the risk of some types of cancer. Hundreds of studies suggest that eating lots of fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of developing certain cancers, and there is evidence that vegetarians have a lower incidence of cancer than non-vegetarians do (Becoming a Vegetarian 4-6). Fruits and vegetables contain a complex mixture of phytochemicals, possessing potent antioxidant and cancer protective activity. These phytochemicals interfere with several cellular processes involved in the progression of cancer (Position of the ADA 1266-1282). With vegetarian diets gaining popularity, there are bound to be myths regarding the plant-based diet. The first myth is that humans were “designed” to eat meat. The anatomy of the human allows us to eat meat occasionally, as a survival mechanism, but our digestive systems are very similar to those of the other plant-eaters and totally unlike those of carnivores. The argument that humans are carnivores because we possess "canine" teeth ignores the facts that other plant-eaters have these same so-called canine teeth, and that only plant-eaters have molar teeth (Blue jay). The human digestive system, tooth and jaw structure, and bodily functions are completely different from carnivorous animals (Green). As in the case of the anthropoid ape, the human digestive system is twelve times the length of the body; our skin has millions of tiny pores to evaporate water and cool the body by sweating; we drink water by suction like all other vegetarian animals; our tooth and jaw structure is vegetarian; and our saliva is alkaline and contains ptyalin for predigesting of grains. Human beings clearly are not carnivores by physiology -- our anatomy and digestive system show that we must have evolved for millions of years living on fruits, nuts, grains, and vegetables (Green). Another myth is that milk is a necessity for strong bones. However, according to Dr. John A. McDougall, “Calcium deficiency of dietary origin is unknown in humans. Dairy products contain large amounts of animal proteins. This excess protein removes calcium from the body by way of the kidneys. Knowing the physiological effects on calcium metabolism of eating excess protein explains why societies with the highest intakes of meat and dairy products--the United States, England, Israel, Finland, and Sweden--also show the highest rates of osteoporosis, the disease of bone-thinning (Blue jay).” Finally, because vegetarians do not eat meat, they tend to eat a large number of carbohydrates. The myth is that carbs make you fat. Carbohydrates do not make someone fat: Refined carbs, like sugar and flour, make someone fat, because they are calorically dense (Blue jay). As many people are aware, negative beliefs seem to attract the public eye more so than positive views do. Even with so many myths in the world, many people are still pro vegetarian. Consumer trends have been hitting the roof, thus providing evidence that plant-based diets are becoming increasingly popular. In 2006, based on a nationwide poll, approximately 2.3% of the US adult population (4.9 million people) consistently followed a vegetarian diet, stating that they never ate meat, fish, or poultry (Position of the ADA 1266-1282). Many consumers report an interest in vegetarian diets and 22% report regular consumption of meatless substitutes for meat products (Position of the ADA 1262-1282). This is a strong indication that Americans are looking for ways to make their diets healthier by replacing at least some of the meat or dairy products they currently use with vegetarian alternatives (Mogelonsky). The Mad Cow scare of 2003 and again at the end of 2004 also served as an eye-opener to consumers who became more interested in what they perceived to be safer alternatives to mainstream beef. And also from organic alternatives to vegetarian substitutes (Mogelonsky). Restaurants have responded to interest in vegetarian diets. A survey of chefs found that vegetarian dishes were considered “hot” or “a perennial favorite” by 71%; vegan dishes by 63%. Fast food restaurants are also beginning to offer salads, veggie burgers, and other meatless options to help with growing popularity (Position of the ADA 1266-1282). With consumer trends on the rise, product availability is also increasing. The US market for processed vegetarian foods was estimated to be $1.17 billion in 2006. This market is said to grow to $1.6 billion by 2011 (Position of the ADA 1266-1282). The availability of new products, including fortified foods and convenience foods, would be expected to have an impact on the nutrient intake of vegetarians who choose to eat these foods. With so many fortified products available today, the nutritional status of the typical vegetarian today would be expected to be greatly improved from that of a vegetarian one to two decades ago (Position of the ADA). The improvement could be even greater with the public learning more about the vegetarian diets. Typically, people have thought of vegetarians as being a person who does not eat meat. The vegetarian way of living, however, is much more complicated. According to registered dietician, Ryan Antrilli, “Vegetarianism is a great way of living as long as you plan the diet correctly.” There are several different types of vegetarians, and stricter diets result in stricter eating habits. Also, through many of these diets someone can gain great health benefits. Eating a healthy, non meat diet can help protect against various types of disease. Although in the past few years plant-based diets have become more popular, there are still many myths concerning the diet. Based on recent research, vegetarian diets are becoming increasingly popular. As the diet becomes more popular consumer trends grow as well as product availability. If the diet is appropriately planned with the adequate amount of nutrients, the eating habit is first-rate. Vegetarian diets are gaining popularity now that it is proven to be safe and nutritional.

Works Cited
Antrilli, Ryan. Personal Interview. 02 November 2009.
Bauer, Joy "`Vegging out'." Complete Idiot's Guide to Eating Smart (1998): 185. MasterFILE Premier. EBSCO. Web. 8 Oct. 2009.
"Becoming a vegetarian." Harvard Women's Health Watch 17.2 (2009): 4. MasterFILE Premier. EBSCO. Web. 6 Oct. 2009
Blue jay, Michael. "Vegetarian Guide: Myths about Vegetarianism." Vegetarian Guide. Michael Blue jay, Web. 18 Nov 2009. <http://michaelbluejay.com/veg/myths.html>.
Green, Hank. "Human Beings." Nerdfighters. Hank Green, n.d. Web. 15 Mar 2010. <http://nerdfighters.ning.com/video/why-humans-are-primarily>.
Heller, Rachel. "Vegetarianism is Becoming More Popular." Health & Wellness. associatedContent, 27 July 2006. Web. 14 Apr 2010. <http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/46482/vegetarianism_is_becoming_more_pop ular_pg3.html?cat=5>.
Mogelonsky, Marcia. "New Product Trends." n. pag. Web. 10 Dec 2009. <http://www.preparedfoods.com/Articles/Feature_Article/c4b1279255788010VgnVCM1 00000f 932a8c0____>.
Nadraszky, Bill "The Importance of Protein." The Importance of Protein. 11 Jul. 2005 EzineArticles.com. 1 Mar. 2010 <http://ezinearticles.com/?The-Importance-of- Protein&id=50283>.
“Position of the American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian Diets.” American Dietetic Association 109 (2009): 1266-1282.

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