Vegetarian / Vegan Food vs. Meat – The Great Debate
It is well-known that your diet plays a huge roll in your health. Numerous diseases and other maladies are associated with dietary habits. Considering longevity and weight loss to sustainable food production, the vegan food craze has swept the globe. However, the jury (aka doctors, scientists, and nutritionists) are still ambivalent on this subject. You be the judge. But the vegetarian / vegan food vs. meat debate I’m sure will go on long after the publication of this here little article…
Vegetarian / Vegan Diet vs. Meat Diet
Before we throw down and go to town, let’s explore some definitions. There is a definite distinction between the terms “vegan” and “vegetarian”, which still causes confusion among many people.
What Is Veganism
Vegan.org describes veganism as a natural extension of vegetarianism, and an integral component of a true cruelty-free lifestyle. Where vegetarians abstain from eating meat, vegans take it a step further, swearing off the eating of eating dairy, eggs, and even honey (as well as not wearing fur, leather, down or wool, or any product tested on animals).
What Is Vegetarianism
Here’s where it gets a bit potentially confusing:
There are two types of vegetarian diet – total vegetarian and lacto vegetarian.
A total vegetarian diet includes fruits, nuts, vegetables, legumes, and grains. Lacto vegetarians add milk, butter, cheese, and other dairy products.
Conversely, a non-vegetarian diet includes chicken, meat, fish, and eggs. Whereas a vegetarian diet is full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, magnesium, unsaturated fat, and folic acid, a meat eater diet also has benefits as this type of food is rich in protein and vitamin B.
Thus, vegetarian diets protect us from diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and low cholesterol levels. Non-vegetarian diets strengthen our muscles and help to maintain body stamina and hemoglobin.
Junk Food Vegans
However, all of this begs the question: What makes certain foods healthy or unhealthy, as related to a vegan or plant-based diet? This is explained by Marita Schaugh, ND who states: The problem is that corporations who sometimes do not produce healthy food capitalize on the trend by adding false packaging claims such as “natural”, “vegan”, “light”, or “diet” just to boost sales. This has led to the rise of
so-called “junk food vegans” who follow a strictly plant-based or vegan diet but unfortunately do not eat healthy food at all. Ergo, just because a label says “vegan” does not mean it is healthy. Check the fine print on these items. Many of them include mock meals, frozen dinners, and baked goods, as well as some yogurt, cheese, and ice cream.
The rule of thumb, explains Dr. Marita, is the closer it is to how it came out of the earth, the better. Fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains, non-GMO, and organic are good indicators.
So now, on to our great debate:
Vegan / Vegetarian Versus Meat Eater
A vegan or plant-based diet is not for everyone. For some it is the way to go, as in a lower risk of heart disease and diabetes, weight loss, and improved digestion. However, for others removing animal products from their food choices causes problems.
So, Let’s break it down into pros and cons for each, commencing with the “V” people.
- lowers levels of cholesterol.
- decreases the number of
medications needed for high blood pressure and diabetes.
- contributes to healthy weight loss.
- reduces the risk of colon cancer.
- more difficult to get enough iron and Vitamin B12.
- higher levels of triglycerides and cystatin C, which indicate decreased kidney function.
- provides protein without causing high cholesterol.
- offers Vitamin B12 and iron needed in the formation of red blood cells and nerve fibers.
- in moderation adds a good variety of flavor.
- protects our body from excessive winter weather.
- sharpens our intellect and promotes smooth brain function.
- too much meat can lead to high levels of bad cholesterol, causing heart attacks and strokes.
- a meat heavy diet may cause stiffening of the blood vessels causing high blood pressure.
Plant-Based Meat Substitutes
Regardless of choosing to become a vegetarian or not, there is a new kid on the block. This is plant-based meat substitutes. This is the new craze and these products are flying off the shelves and being purchased and consumed by both vegetarians and meat lovers alike.
An example of the popularity of plant-based meat substitutes is a company in Victoria, British Columbia that began in a small way making plant based burgers and sausages and selling them at the farmers market on Denman Island. Today their menu items have increased and are so popular that The Good Food Company has expanded their operations to Victoria and Vancouver, B.C. and are still growing. Today their stock market valuation is over $800 million. This is also thanks to their foresight in selling these popular products online.
Another such vegan food company is The Cultured Nut, also in Victoria, which makes dairy-free cheeses and plant-based butter which can be found on retail shelves and restaurant menus.
Vegan smoked salmon, made with shaved carrots and seaweed, is another upstart company doing exceedingly well.
A Heart-Healthy Diet
On the other hand if you are a staunch meat eater and have no desire to budge from that stance, more power to you. Maybe simply reduce your intake of beef, pork, and lamb and include more fish and seafood. Dr. Guy Mintz believes that the best diet is the one you can adhere to so if that includes meat, so be it. A heart healthy diet should consist of vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, whole grains, olive oil, and moderate amounts of poultry, fish, eggs, and lean meat.
Well, there. The vegetarian / vegan food vs. meat debate settled, once and for all (Not)!
I will just leave this on the table for you to ponder. All this talk of food has made me ravenous.