Recently I’ve encountered several people who have said they want to try a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. Knowing the health benefits of avoiding meat, I’m definitely happy to hear that, so I want to offer some insights on what that entails and suggestions for making the transition.
First, let me clarify the difference between the two. Vegetarians avoid meat, poultry, fish, and most eat dairy products and free range eggs. Vegans on the other hand are a bit more extreme and fall into two categories. Dietary Vegans refrain from animal products and also eggs, dairy products and other animal derived substances. The term Ethical Vegans is often applied to those who not only follow a vegan diet, but extend the vegan philosophy into other areas of their lives, and oppose the use of animals or animal products for ANY purpose. I’m not that extreme, so I consider myself a dietary vegan who basically follows a plant based diet.
For anyone interested in removing meat from your diet I recommend watching several educational documentaries available on Netflix, including Forks Over Knives, Food Inc, and Vegucated. I watched Vegucated last week and it was very enlightening. There are so many wonderful resources available, but these are great places to start.
So, for either of these lifestyle choices, start out slow. If you eat meat every day and every meal, then you may want to cut back first. Instead of eating meat every meal, reduce your consumption to one meal, then a few times a week, and as the weeks go by drop less and less. Or maybe cut out red meat all together and just eat fish before you drop everything. You will need to decide what works best for you. For me the process wasn’t deliberate and it was a very gradual progression. After years of eating mostly chicken and fish, I stopped eating chicken after I found out it wasn’t good for my blood type. After eating just fish for a couple of years, I decided to try veganism. The first two weeks were really hard, but after that it became easy. I started out trying it for 30 days, I never expected to continue the lifestyle. I’d gone 3 months or so before I realized I was still following a vegan diet. Now, I can’t imagine doing anything differently.
The most important thing I can recommend is if you go vegetarian or vegan, make sure you get your nutrients through fruits and veggies. Unfortunately, not all vegetarians or vegans eat healthy. I have met people who end up eating a lot of carbs and a lot of junk food in the beginning because they don’t know what to eat.
As a general rule, a healthy vegetarian/vegan diet consists of fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, and beans. It’s a learning process, so just make sure you do your research and see what is best for you. When done right both offer a much healthier alternative. Vegetarians who follow a well balanced low fat, high fiber diet have lower incidence of coronary artery disease, hypertension, obesity and some forms of cancer. Vegan diets prevent heart disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis, macular degeneration and also lowers blood pressure.
So, those are the basics, now it’s up to you to decide if this is right for you. Until next time…
Peace, Love & Fitness