Monday, May 4, 2009

Being Vegetarian -- Is it Healthy?

Taking up a vegetarian lifestyle has become quite trendy. In addition to just desiring to be in fashion, there can be a lot of reasons for being vegetarian. Some of these other reasons include: spiritual/religious beliefs, environmental concerns, animal-consciousness, desire for attention, and a quest for better health. It is the last reason I'm blogging about here tonight: Is vegetarianism healthy?

To answer this question one needs to know and assess what exactly one means by "being vegetarian." Does it mean just not eating certain kinds of meat? (I've had "fish vegetarians" --"I only eat fish.") Does it mean no meat or animal products of any kind (also called Vegan)? And, just what DOES one eat, if you're "vegetarian?" My daughter could more accurately be called a "fruitarian" since she really doesn't care a lot for vegetables and eats no kind of meat.

A general rule of thumb would be that the more limited one's diet is, the greater the risk of missing out on important nutrients. Hence, the more rigid one's vegetarian diet is, the more vigilant one has to be to get the right nutrients. The largest problem for vegetarians is getting enough protein. Protein comprises the building blocks of life. Muscle cells and immune cells need good amounts of protein. Short changing protein leads to muscle atrophy and poor immune system function. In general, vegetarians need to be very conscious about their protein intake and insure that what they are eating is "nutrient dense." It is probably a good thing to supplement with vitamins and quality protein powders -- my favorite is hemp! With this one large caveat you CAN eat vegetarian and stay healthy!

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