Diet Investigation: Vegetarianism

There seem to be only two sides to this story. People who wholeheartedly embrace the vegetarian diet and those who are adamantly against it.

Information in books and on the web seem like two children fighting over who has the best bicycle, shouting from the rooftops:

“Meat will kill you….it’s rotting flesh in your intestines!!”

“No – meat is healthy, your vegetarian foods are only fit for rabbits!!”

The rest of us caught in the middle, noticing only those who shout the loudest, have the most books and the prettiest websites. We’re drawn in not by actual proof, but by the idea and “theories” behind them. Often times we’re unwell, tired of being to fat, and tired of  being sick all the time and we find stories of healing that catch not only our eyes, but our hearts. We so desperately want to be well, that we’ll throw our entire diet to the birds and wholeheartedly adopt a new way of thinking – often times buying into the “do-nots” of a specific dietary plan.

Salad

© Donielle

{I am not a vegetarian. The following “facts” I’m pulling from other websites, please feel free to nicely let me know of any mistakes so that I can correct them!}

Basics of a Vegetarian Diet

“So……you eat like a rabbit?” If you’re a vegetarian, I’m sure you’ve heard this multiple times, right? People know you eat your vegetables, but salads are pretty much the only way the average eater knows how to get mass amounts of veggies in their diets. Hopefully, the following will be a somewhat well-rounded view of what a vegetarian diet truly is.

There are also many different types of vegetarian diets:

  • Lacto-ovo vegetarians consume dairy foods and eggs, but no fish, poultry, or meat.
  • Vegans consume no animal products, not even dairy products, eggs, and honey. {we’ll discuss the vegan diet on a different day}
  • Pesco-vegetarians eat fish but no other animal product.
  • Lacto vegetarians consume dairy but no other animal product.
  • Ovo vegetarians consume eggs, but no other animal product.
  • Pollo vegetarians consume chicken, but no other type of animal meat.
  • Flexitarians (semi-vegetarians) eat mostly plant foods, but use meat, poultry, and fish occasionally.

In reality, most vegetarians cut out meat products and instead substitute with grains and legumes for their protein.

 

Pros to a Vegetarian Diet

{now ya’ll are gonna be hitting the un-subscribe button faster than my breaking up with Weston Price post!}

1. A vegetarian diet can be full of lots of fresh whole foods. These foods nourish our bodies with essential vitamins and minerals.

2. Many vegetarian diets are also void of most processed foods, thereby lessening the burden on the body.

3. Consuming a lot of plant matter helps a healthy body cleanse and gives your digestive system a break.

4. Fresh produce is easy to find each summer at farmers markets and local stores.

 

Cons to a Vegetarian Diet

1. Often done incorrectly, a vegetarian diet can be to low in essential fat soluble vitamins like A,D,E, and K. Fat consumption may also be to low for proper hormone production. Vegans in particular have an extremely difficult time getting vitamin B-12 into their diet.

2. As with any diet, people try to make their old stand-by meals and substitute something like soy for meat.

3. I don’t know about you, but fresh produce is impossible to find in the winter months. I’m no longer able to buy my fruits and veggies in season at the farmers markets, but have to purchase lettuce from California.

My Thoughts on a Vegetarian Diet

I don’t’ advocate a vegetarian diet and for good reason. Most people who eat a vegetarian diet aren’t doing it correctly. To often someone decides to be a vegetarian and just “doesn’t eat meat”. But you can easily be a “junkfood-tarian” as pizza and donuts, cereal and pop are all vegetarian fare.

Many vegetarians also turn to soy products in place of meat and consumption of soy can lead to thyroid problems as well as hormonal problems. Instead of trying to replace the foods you’ve grown to love, why not just learn how to cook other dishes instead? Ones that are naturally vegetarian?

I also have a problem with any diet that causes one to look at a certain food group as “evil”. I can understand wanting humane treatment of animals {I buy local pastured products}, but all to often people are dead set against eating animal products when, in fact, their particular body might benefit from them. Many of the nutrients in plant foods are “pre-cursors” to essential vitamins. In healthy people we can make this conversion without a hitch, in bodies struggling with health, this conversion is, many times, not possible. So even someone eating a plant based diet may in fact need to consume animal products for the greatest health benefit.

I also personally don’t believe that organic/pastured animal products contribute to cancer and disease any more than organic produce does. Throughout centuries we’ve been meat eaters and yet only in the last hundred years we’ve been suffering with heart disease and cancer.

A vegetarian diet can be done and still nourish a body – one must be extra vigilant in doing so though! Out of the many types of vegetarians, I would have to steer people away from a vegan diet as I think the nutrients from milk, eggs, butter, etc are to essential for our health.

As a meat eater, I’m also saddened that there is such a great divide between us. To often I see vegetarians put down for their choice in diet and this just isn’t acceptable. We need to remember that even Dr. Price’s research showed cultures that ate about 90% vegetarian (10% bugs and insects) and they didn’t suffer the modern disease we see today.

Again, these are my thoughts on the matter, feel free to politely let me know how you eat as a vegetarian! Don’t like what you hear? Well, I’m not done with the series either – so stay tuned.

The next part in this Diet Investigation Series will be a Q&A with a “Nourished Vegetarian”, someone I feel that does a vegetarian diet justice.

 

Have you ever been a vegetarian? What are your thoughts?

 

As we discussed this on the Facebook page a week or so ago, I thought you’d all be interested in hearing some of the stories that were shared.

  • Tania – There is a huge difference in being a vegetarian and being vegan. Vegetarians still eat fish, eggs and milk products. Some even eat chicken. It’s mainly vegans who consume soy products, which I would steer way clear of. I was vegetarian and… then vegan for many years. I was the sickest I ever was. I ate a LOT of soy. I was 125lbs (I’m 5’8″), weak and passed out. I went to a NP and she talked to me about blood types and eating foods for your type (there are books you can find). I am an O and eating red meats is essential for my optimum health. I refused to eat red meat, but started eating chicken. It wasn’t until I got pregnant that I started eating red meat again. I’ve never felt better. We only eat local, grass-fed beef (and pork, chicken, eggs and milk). Before I got pregnant I was a healthy 155lbs, very lean and muscular. I think our blood type does play a huge role in what we should be eating.
  • Alicia – Ethical issues aside, the more I learn about sustainable agriculture the more clear it seems that animals are a vital part of making good food.
  • Lisa – I’m a vegetarian, also, but just recently converted. My mom and I went to a plant-based diet last year after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. I lost 23 lbs. and my husband is down 20 lbs. and our kids have never been healthier.
  • J Lindsey – I was vegetarian for a few years and then finally went vegan…Now I’m bearing the scars of that. Several autoimmune diseases and miscarriages later I’m working very hard to heal the damage done to my body by a vegetarian and vegan diet. Its one of the few regrets I have in my life. It might work for some people, but for women trying to increase their fertility, I would definitely NOT recommend it.
  • Bethany – I have been vegetarian for ten years. Short stints with veganism, but found that it didn’t support me during pregnancy and the first year post-partum with nursing. I added organic milk, yogurt, and eggs back into my diet. Now my nursling (19mos) is showing allergies to cow’s milk, so I’m just doing eggs, no milk, no soy, no wheat.

Other posts in this series:

Diet Investigation: Standard American Diet

Diet Investigation: Nourishing Traditions Type Diet

Diet Investigation: Vegetarian Diet

Diet Investigation: Primal/Paleo Diet

Diet Investigation: Gluten Free

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About Donielle

Donielle is an amateur herbalist and natural momma to two littles (with another babe in heaven) after dealing with being less than fertile. She has a passion for nourishing nutrition, natural living, and spreading the word on how food truly affects our health.

Comments

  1. The only thing I disagree with in this post would be

    “3. Consuming a lot of plant matter helps the body cleanse and gives your digestive system a break.

    I’ve been a vegetarian and a was even a vegan for a short time and I found that my body didn’t cleanse and my digestive system didn’t actually get a break until I started the GAPS intro diet which is mostly bone broths, boiled meats and grain free etc… I love this post though and appreciate the way you are treating the vegetarian diet. As an ex Veg who now eats a Weston a price/paleo diet I often am sad at how vegetarians are mocked.

    donielle Reply:

    @Lola, you know…it’s funny really {I’ll do the GAPS/SCD/BED type diets soon as well} some people really have issues with cleansing on plant foods. Most likely due to not being able to digest raw foods well. So I also think that it’s a “healthy” body that can get a break on a plant based diet, some folks need to work on healing first. Maybe I should go edit my post……

    Thanks for your thoughts!

  2. Hélène says:

    I didnt know u broke with WAP.org. Where’s that article at?

    donielle Reply:

    @Hélène, I didn’t really…..it was an April fools post. 😀

    http://www.naturallyknockedup.com/weston-a-price/

  3. Hi Donielle

    I am 43 and have eaten meat and dairy all my life. I have recently become a selective vegetarian and have to say I have never enjoyed food so much. I dont really miss meat on the whole. I have also reduced my dairy intake although I still consume some trim milk and very occassionally butter.

    I think at the end of the day it comes down to having everthing in proportion. Having some meat in meals during the week is probably fine. Having some dairy is probably fine too. However, in my instance anyway, I was eating meat and dairy everyday all day in bigger proportions. I find that this is what is happening with meat, dairy, sugar. Moderation has gone out the door. In New Zealand we are one of the biggest meat and sairy consumers in the world and we have some of the highest osteoperosis and cancer rates. So I definately believe there is a corrollation.

    I guess only time will tell but for now Im doing the vegetarian thing.

  4. I am not a fan of cutting any food group out of one’s diet. We do, however, try to limit our meat intake to 1-2 times per week. In the winter when fresh fruit and vegetables aren’t as plentiful we will up our meat intake a bit. I grew up eating meat every day and it is hard to find a good balance of healthy meals that are meatless, filling, and don’t contain soy. I am not a huge advocate of eating meat all the time, but I would never consider cutting it out completely.

  5. Good post! I think in addition to everything else you already said, there are certain seasons in a person’s life where more or less meat should be consumed. I know I went without meat for a year (after being grossed out by the meat industry) and didn’t really notice any ill effects at the time and didn’t have a hard time not eating meat. Now, years later, as I’m dealing with adrenal issues, I find I have to consumer WAY more meat than I used to. Not on purpose, one week my husband and I planned all vegetarian meals in an effort to conserve money, and by the end of the week I was craving red meat like you wouldn’t believe. That being said, I don’t believe it’s necessary to eat meat every day and I definitely think it should be eaten in moderation, which is sometimes tough to do. I try to stretch my meat with lots of beans, but I still think I need to make an effort to eat less meat than I do. BUT, I also live in a very cold climate (Alaska) which I think necessitates a little more meat than say someone living in California. Lots to consider! But I think we can all learn from each other and we could all stand to be a little more moderate and tolerant. Thanks for reminding us of that!

  6. Thank you for this well written, respectful post. I have so many infertile friends that, though I have three healthy children and plans for more, I have decided to read your blog so that I can hopefully help them.