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How Healthy is a Vegetarian Diet? Q and A.

Ironically, it's the simply phrased questions that really get me thinking.

This simple question from a blog reader was asked of me via the comments section of my Belgium "Veggie Day" post:

Q: How healthy is a vegetarian diet?

It's an honest and fair question to be asked. So, here's my plain and simple answer. I'll call it my sixty second beauty pageant answer. It comes from my heart and is a summary of what my brain knows and what my body has experienced...

Q: How Healthy is a Vegetarian Diet? -Mike

A: Mike,

Simple question right? But not so simple answers twirl and swirl through my head. There are so many reasons I could give for eating a vegetarian diet, but here is my sixty second 'beauty pageant' style answer. Simple, from the heart and coming from a place of experience on this issue. Fifteen years of first-hand vegetarian experience to be exact.

You asked this question in regards to a post about Ghent, so here is my answer in context: A "vegetarian diet" day, aka "veggie day" in Ghent, Belgium, is not only meant to voice the health benefits of a vegetarian diet, but also the green healthy planet benefits of a vegetarian culture. As mentioned in the post, the farming industry (livestock) is incredibly harsh on our environment. "Eighteen per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions that we produce come from the production of livestock – that’s 4 per cent more than from transport. Read: http://tinyurl.com/ypfdk7

Healthy for You. But to answer your main question, which I would assume would focus on how healthy a veg diet is for you...

A vegetarian diet helps the planet and helps you. By abstaining from meat, a person's intake of healthy foods like fruit, veggies and whole natural grains, healthy monounsaturated fats and lean vegetarian proteins will likely increase greatly in their diet. Eat less of the 'bad stuff' and you'll have more room for the 'good stuff'. Vegetarian foods that come from the earth in whole food forms contain wonderfully high doses of vitamins, minerals, fiber, live plant enzymes and phytochemicals. The more healthy nutrients in your diet, the better! Animal products and meat are much higher in saturated fat that most alternatives. And a diet high in saturated fat can lead to cardiovascular problems as well as other health conditions. Many meat/dairy products also contain hormones and steroids that have been given to the animals. While organic, free-range grass-fed meat is a better alternative than traditional methods, the pure cruelty of farming animals for food is the main reason why most vegans and vegetarians abstain from meat.

Long Term Veggies. A vegetarian diet is indeed about health benefits for me and you. And those health benefits might make a person curious about changing their traditional meat eating diet, at first. But a big picture approach, involving a love of animals, a quest for a healthy cruelty-free lifestyle and a desire to help 'green' the planet, is usually the reason why a person would become a lifelong strict vegetarian or vegan.

What a feeling. If being a vegan didn't feel good, I wouldn't do it. I once had a health professional tell me that some people can't skip animal proteins. I don't believe that. I think the people who go veg and 'feel like crap' are not properly educated on how to eat a sensible, nutrition-loaded, protein-rich vegetarian diet. Those people were probably eating a lot of processed foods and not embracing plentiful amounts of whole foods and proteins like tempeh, seitan and tofu. All of which are delicious and incredibly protein-dense. A vegetarian has no choice but to be educated in nutrition. For example, any smart vegetarian knows that vitamin B12 is a rare find in non-animal product foods, and so supplemental or foods fortified with it is a good idea. I find that most vegetarians and vegans are more educated on nutrition issues, mostly by circumstance of wanting to go veg the right and healthy way. This is a good thing. So the last reason why it is healthy to go veg is the way your body will feel once you do it correctly: alive, energized and cleansed. Plant foods are foods of the sun and foods of the earth. They are alive and contain nutrients that are still alive. The term 'dead' vs. 'living' food is thrown around often in vegan/raw food/vegetarian diet talk, and for good reason.

Yes, that was longer than sixty seconds, but when you are passionate about something it's hard to stop. I guess would've been DQ'd in the beauty pageant answer session...Oh well.

I hope that helped,

~Kathy


Got a Question?
If you have any questions for my Q and A posts please add them to the comment section or feel free to contact me via email. And you can also @ reply or direct message me on twitter.
This image is of my recipe for Ginger Mandarin Rice and Cashew Tofu. See the recipe here: http://kblog.lunchboxbunch.com/2009/04/recipe-ginger-mandarin-rice-with-cashew.html

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