Are Vegetarians Healthier Than Meat Eaters?
Who is the healthiest of them all? This age-old debate has preoccupied researchers, physicians, politicians, and everyday citizens. People in the Western world seem to be obsessed with their health. All kinds of diets flood the media, and countless health magazines line the store shelves. In particular, there has been a lot of controversy about whether a vegetarian diet is healthier than a non-vegetarian diet.
Vegetarians, and many researchers, have long insisted that a non-meat diet helps reduce the risk of certain diseases and makes it easier to lose weight, while meat eaters insist that vegetarians do not get enough protein.
Research from the Austrian Health Interview Survey even suggests that vegetarians are less prone to develop allergies, anxiety disorders and have a 50% lower risk of cancer and heart attacks.
So, what is fact and what is fiction?
The Truth About Vegetarians Vs. Meat Eaters
Studies show that vegetarians have a lower body mass index than meat eaters. Meaning that they tend to weigh less, and have a lower risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and incidence of cancer.
In regards to the claim that vegetarians do not get enough protein, this is only a myth. There are plenty of foods that are high in protein, including, nuts, beans, legumes, whole grains, tofu, even fruits and vegetables. The majority of vegetarians have no issue getting enough protein. However, they do sometimes have an issue with getting enough B12, so vegetarians are often encouraged to take a vitamin B12 supplement.
Regarding meat, some studies show that meat eaters have a higher risk of heart disease, obesity, and other diseases, while other studies say that vegetarians actually have a higher risk of heart disease, cancer, depression, anxiety, and other disorders.
The reasons for these discrepancies are relatively straightforward:
- Many people who choose a vegetarian diet are more health-conscious in general and thus make other healthy lifestyle choices (e.g., not smoking, not drinking heavily).
- Many people who become vegetarian choose so because of existing, ongoing health problems that they want to improve (e.g., diabetes, allergies, anxiety). Thus, vegetarians may seem healthier in general because of other healthy lifestyle habits, or on the flip side, they might have disorders and problems that meat eaters do not have because they developed these conditions and then became vegetarian to try to reduce these problems. Studies that do not control for these factors may present incorrect information.
In truth, a vegetarian is not necessarily healthier than a meat eater is. It all comes down to individual choices. A vegetarian who consumes a lot of sodium, sugars, refined grains, and saturated fats is not healthier than a meat eater who consumes a lot of fruits and vegetables.
Choosing A Lifestyle
There are many reasons that people choose to eat a meatless diet, some are ethical in nature, others are for religious reasons, some people simply cannot tolerate eating anything that once lived and breathed, and others just feel that it is a healthy choice. Conversely, many love steaks and chicken, so for them, choosing this type of lifestyle can prove difficult, unless there is compelling motivation to quit eating meat. Keep in mind that a diet that includes meat can be healthy.
The Healthiest Foods To Incorporate Into Your Diet
A reason that studies show a higher risk of heart disease, obesity, and other problems in meat eaters is due to saturated and trans fat. Meats, especially red meats, are high in saturated fat.
For the healthiest diet possible, focus on a menu that is rich with the following items:
- Whole Grains
- Plant-based Oils
Regardless of being a vegetarian or meat eater, the foods that you consume on a regular basis dictate how healthy you will be.
Focus on the seven foods above to reduce your risk of heart attack, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and other diseases. Monitor the amount of saturated fats that you consume, and if you are a meat eater, consider swapping your steak for grilled chicken or fish on a frequent basis. With the right diet and lifestyle choices, meat eaters can be just as healthy as vegetarians are!