Myths and Facts About Vegetarianism

  • woman-pushing-cart-through-grocery-aisle
    Fact vs. Fiction
    Is a plant-based diet really healthier than one that includes meat? Do vegetarians live longer than meat eaters? Do vegetarian diets really live up to the health hype?

    Despite the fact that more than 7 million Americans are vegetarians, myths about vegetarianism abound. Let’s separate the facts from the fiction.

  • fruits and vegetables
    Myth: A Vegetarian Diet Is the Healthiest Diet
    Fact: On the whole, vegetarians eat more fruits and veggies and less saturated fat than the average American. Vegetarian diets have been linked to a decreased risk of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. But avoiding meat does not guarantee good health; you still have to make healthy food choices. (A breakfast of donuts and coffee might technically qualify as vegetarian, but it’s not exactly healthy!) 

    The healthiest diet for you is one that enables you to get the nutrients you need from food you enjoy. For some, that means a plant-based diet. For others, that means a diet that includes meat and animal products.

  • parent playing with kids
    Myth: A Vegetarian Diet Isn’t a Good Choice for Kids and Teens
    Fact: Kids of all ages–even babies–can thrive on a vegetarian diet, as long as they’re getting plenty of calories and the right blend of nutrients. 

    That’s where parents come in. If your son or daughter expresses interest in a vegetarian diet, sit down and talk about nutrition. Work together to develop a well-balanced eating plan, and let your child know you’ll help him or her stay healthy. If you’re not sure where to start, schedule an appointment with your child’s healthcare provider, who can help you both understand the necessary components of a healthy vegetarian diet.

  • Mother breastfeeding baby a few months old
    Myth: Pregnant and Breastfeeding Moms Shouldn’t Eat a Vegetarian Diet
    Fact: It’s absolutely OK to continue (or switch to) a vegetarian diet during pregnancy or lactation. There is no truth whatsoever to the idea that you have to drink milk to make milk, or to nourish a healthy baby. 

    It’s a good idea, though, for pregnant and breastfeeding moms to review their diet with a healthcare provider or nutritionist. Vegetarians who avoid all animal products may have a hard time getting enough vitamin B12 from food sources. In that case, a doctor might recommend a B12 supplement.  Most doctors recommend folic acid supplementation during pregnancy, too. 

  • couple-using-laptop-whilst-having-breakfast-in-kitchen
    Myth: There’s Only One Way to Go Vegetarian
    Fact: Not so. Some vegetarians eat fish but not eggs. Some eat eggs and fish but no dairy products. Some refuse to eat anything that contains animal products, including, for instance, a cake that includes eggs. The most commonly encountered forms of vegetarianism include lacto-ovo vegetarianism (adherents do not eat red or white meat, fish or fowl, but they do eat dairy products and eggs) and veganism (adherents eat no animal-based products, including honey and gelatin).

  • Beans
    Myth: Vegetarians Don’t Get Enough Protein
    Fact: Protein is easier to come by than you may think. While meat is the most common source of protein in the American diet, protein is also present in nuts, seeds, beans and legumes, such as soybeans and chickpeas. Leafy greens also contain protein and so does quinoa, a whole grain.

  • fruit smoothie
    Myth: Eating Vegetarian is Complicated
    Fact: You may have heard vegetarians need to combine certain foods to make sure they get the right blend of nutrients, amino acids, and proteins. But you don’t have to perform dietary backflips to be a healthy vegetarian. Eating a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, grains and protein over time is the key to good nutrition, whether or not you’re vegetarian.

  • Eating dinner
    Myth: Once You Go Vegetarian, You Can’t Go Back
    Fact: Some people believe long-term vegetarians lose the ability to digest meat, but that’s just not true. According to scientists, the body retains the ability to digest meat, even if it’s been years since the body last encountered a steak. Of course, it’s not uncommon for a vegetarian to report feeling sluggish after a large meal of meat, but that’s because the body isn’t used to large, fat-saturated meals, not because the body is incapable of digesting meat.

  • coronary-artery-disease-desktop
    Myth: Vegetarians Live Longer Than Meat Eaters
    Fact: Scientific studies of the longevity of vegetarians vs. non-vegetarians have been mixed. At least one study found vegetarians were 12% less likely to die over the study period than meat eaters. Other studies, though, haven’t found a significant difference between the lifespan of vegetarians and non-vegetarians.  Plus, no one has been able to prove that eating a vegetarian diet causes a longer lifespan by decreasing risk of death. 

    The decision to eat or not eat animal products is a highly personal choice. If you or someone you love is considering a vegetarian diet, it’s a good idea to consult a healthcare provider to ensure the nutritional adequacy of the dietary plan. 

Myths and Facts About Vegetarianism

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