Meat Versus Vegetarian Diets Research Papers Example
There are hundreds of diets on the market for consumers. Diets are important because of benefits to health. Each week a new diet is introduced into the market and almost every diet is said to have miraculous health benefits or healing powers. The truth is, often deviated and false claims are made about most diets. The prime reason why all diets are hyped up is because nutrition is a big business. Hundreds of diet books have been published and there are thousands of webpages and blogs devoted to dieting. Further, there are TV channels that are devoted to diets, and doctors now promote their own regimens. To make matters worse, no one seems to be agreeing on what diet is the best or the healthiest. The universal theme about any diet that is being promoted is that it is considered to be better than predecessors.
It must be understood that the role of diet and its health benefits are mild to moderate. Diets alone are not a treatment for medical problems. People can eat the safest diet and live a healthy lifestyle while still getting disease. To achieve good health, one also has to lead a healthy lifestyle, avoid excess alcohol, and discontinue smoking. There is no food that is good or bad, as long as it is consumed in moderation. Without regular exercise, almost any food can cause weight gain and lead to a myriad of medical problems.
The best type of diet for good health continues to be debated. For several decades now, many types of diets have been developed and each diet is said to be better than anything in the past. In principle, there are two basic diets- meat and vegetarian (Coleman, 2015). Proponents of each diet claim that they have evidence to prove that one is better than the other. It is now clear that there is good evidence of meat-based diets being detrimental compared to vegetarian eating regimen. Despite this evidence collected over the past 3 decades there still continues to be debate as to which diet is better for health. One common reason for this confusion is that many vegetarian diets have been developed over the past three decades (Key et al., 1999). Some of these diets are for pure vegetarians, while others include raw foods. Still some include natural foods, organic food and several promote a mixture between dairy products, honey and vegetables.
What is a Vegetarian?
A vegetarian is an individual who consumes a plant-based diet that includes vegetables, fruits, and various types of nuts, grains and legumes. There are also some vegetarians who consume dairy products and eggs. Further, there are also those who may eat chicken but not other meats. Over the years, several types of vegetarian subsets have been developed –all differentiated by what foods they eat or do not eat besides plants.
The exact number of people in the USA who eat vegetarian diets is not known but the numbers are estimated. Some studies indicate that 3% of US adults are vegetarian (they only eat plant foods but not dairy products and honey) about 1% are Vegan (those who do not eat honey or dairy products).
Meat diets have been around for a long time. Humans have been known to consume almost every type of meat producing animal on this planet. The most common source of meat is cattle, followed by sheep, lamb, chicken and a variety of seafood. In other countries, a variety of exotic animals including dogs, cats, camel, horse and other mammals are eaten. Meat is an excellent source of protein and also contains essential minerals like iron, riboflavin, vitamin B complex, niacin and thiamine (Freedman, 2015).
Meat Diet and Disadvantages
However, all meat foods have one theme in common-they do contain a lot of saturated fats and high levels of cholesterol. The amount of saturated fat in meat is very obvious when the food is cooked. There is usually a thick viscous residue of oil left over in the pot after cooking any type of meat and this oil once consumed plugs up blood vessels and deposits in the large blood vessels. This can lead to heart attacks and stroke (Freedman, (2015).
After long term eating of a red meat diet, there is clear evidence that heart disease, diabetes and even cancer become more prevalent. In addition, red meat also contains high concentration of sodium, which can lead to retention of water and elevate blood pressure. Even though some experts advocate eating turkey and chicken, there are also studies showing that chicken meat is also associated with weight gain, obesity and high cholesterol levels. When chicken is cooked, the amount of oil released is huge.
There is also evidence that indicates that people who eat just meat or nearly all meat diets do not get adequate amount of carbohydrates. Thus, to derive energy the body now breaks up fat but this biochemical process can lead to development of ketosis. In the long run, ketosis can lead to hunger pangs, confusion, muscle and joint pains. More importantly, high protein diets also stress the kidney and lead to dehydration. Muscle is often broken down and this can lead to loss of muscle mass.
Is a Vegetarian Diet Beneficial?
One of the chief reasons why people resort to vegetarian diets is to obtain health benefits. Over the years, considerable data has been gathered indicating that vegetarian diets do have health benefits. Not only do vegetarians have a low incidence of obesity but they also have a low risk of developing heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and constipation. In addition, there is evidence to suggest that some vegetarians are also very health conscious and this also further improves their quality of life and health outcomes (Robin, 2015).
The benefits of vegetarian diets are seen in both genders but appear to be more significant in men, for some unknown reason. Several researchers have shown that overall vegetarian groups are more likely to be married, female, highly educated and tend to exercise more than their meat loving counterparts. In addition, these individuals are less likely to smoke, and have limited or no consumption of alcohol, tend to be physically more active and have a lower body mass index
Finally, there is some evidence that a vegetarian diet can also increase lifespan. It is believed that the benefits of a vegetarian diet are due to several factors such as:
Reduced intake of saturated fat
Less consumption of harmful processed foods
Decrease intake of cholesterol and animal protein
Lower intake of iron
Increased consumption of fruits and vegetables that are rich in antioxidants and other photochemical.
Presence of antioxidants, high fiber and other photochemical in the vegetable and fruits.
In addition, plant based diets also tend to have a low content of animal fat but others like palm and coconut oil may contain saturated fats.
It should be noted that the benefits of a vegetarian diet are not a one shot deal but require a comprehensive change in lifestyle. While some benefits may be seen after a few months of a vegetarian diet like lowering of blood cholesterol and improvement in constipation, others like prevention of cancers and obesity require lifelong adherence to the diet. The benefits of a vegetarian diet are sustained as long as the individual abides by the diet. Finally, there is evidence that vegetarian diets are cheaper and lead to more environmental protection compared meat based diets (Lusk, & Norwood, 2009).
It is important to understand that not all vegetarian diets are equal (Mangels, 2011). Over the years some experts in nutrition have raised concern that severe restriction towards the intake of animal foods like meat may have adverse effects in the long term. It is believed that such restricted diets may not be nutritionally adequate and may affect growth and development in children and infants (Amit, 2010). There has always been a concern that strict plant based diets may not contain adequate minerals like zinc, copper, omega fatty acids, vitamin complexes or other nutrients that are necessary for optimal health. However, this can be remedied by taking supplements. Unfortunately, the quantity of supplements vegetarians needed to prevent deficiencies of minerals and vitamins is not known. Because vegetarian diets tend to contain high levels of phytates, which can bind to minerals and vitamins, higher levels of iron and zinc are recommended. In addition, vegetarians are also encouraged to eat food products that are fortified with iron like cereal, soy products, nuts, seeds, brown rice and tofu. More importantly the nutritional needs of vegetarians are increased during pregnancy, lactation and growth. In some cases, dietary supplements may be required (Moe et al, 2011).
Eating a vegetarian diet usually does not lead to weight gain. In fact, most people tend to lose weight because the diets have low calories. Vegetarian diets also tend to have low concentrations of protein. Protein is essential for growth and development and also for many other functions in the body. Without protein it is difficult to build muscle mass. After an illness, vegetarians often have no reserve and have long recovery times due to infections because of the depressed immune system.
This does not mean that vegetarian diets are bad. In order to have all the essential minerals and nutrients, it is important to eat other foods as well. Irrespective of whether the individual prefers a vegetarian or a meat diet, most experts recommend a wide variety of foods that includes ample fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low fat dairy foods.
There is no one specific diet that can provide all the foods essential for healthy living and prevent disease. All diets today have some disadvantages and advantages; the meat diet contains high concentrations of protein, but lack carbohydrates and vitamins. The vegetarian diets contain ample carbohydrates but often lack protein and other minerals. The bottom line is that the consumer should eat a diet that contains a little red meat and a lot of vegetables. This diet can be supplemented with whole grains, low fat dairy and seafood. In the end, eating a certain diet and is not the answer to all of mankind’s health problems. To prevent disease, one needs to change their individual life style. The human body requires a balance of fat, carbohydrates and proteins. There is no such thing as a good or bad diet. Any diet when eaten in excess can lead to more calories and over time cause weight gain. Almost all bona fide nutritional organization recommend that meals should be at least two thirds plant based and one third should be meat. When selecting meat, always opt for the lean cuts. Finally limit consumption of processed meats to a minimum,-not only do these products contain a lot of sodium, but they are also contain many artificial chemicals and preservatives. Consumers should not be eating foods based only on taste but first start by assessing if the food meets their nutritional and calorie requirements. These conclusions promote a nutrition rich plan that will support life and keep a person in optimal health.
Amit, M. (2010). Vegetarian diets in children and adolescents. Paediatrics & Child Health, 15(5), 303–308.
Coleman. N. (2015). Meat or vegetarian: Which is best for you? Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-32381/Meat-vegetarian-best-you.html. Accessed on Feb 24, 2015.
Freedman, L. (2015). All-Meat Vs. Vegetarian Diets. Retrieved from http://www.mensfitness.com/nutrition/what-to-eat/all-meat-vs-vegetarian-diets. Accessed on Feb 24, 2015.
Key, T. J., Davey, G. K., & Appleby, P. N. (1999). Health benefits of a vegetarian diet. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 58(02), 271-275.
Lusk, J. L., & Norwood, F. B. (2009). Some economic benefits and costs of vegetarianism. Agricultural and Resource Economics Review, 38(2), 109-124.
Mangels, R., Messina, V., & Messina, M. (2011). The dietitian's guide to vegetarian diets. Jones & Bartlett Publishers.
Moe, M. S., P. Zidehsarai, M., Jackman, L. A., et al. (2011). Vegetarian Compared with Meat Dietary Protein Source and Phosphorus Homeostasis in Chronic Kidney Disease. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3052214/. Accessed on Feb 24, 2015.
Robin, N. (2015). Major Health Differences in Vegetarians & Meat-Eaters. Retrieved from http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/major-health-differences-vegetarians-meateaters-2790.html. Accessed on Feb 24, 2015.
Diseases that form due to diets as well as things that contribute to the overall quality diminishment of life.
Benefits apply to both gender and are demonstrated significantly.
Qualities that diminish lifespans
Diet restrictions and their ability to change optimal health
Supplements for Vegetarians
Commonly disputed elements of vegetarian diets
Concluding remarks about Vegetarianism
Significance of meat-based diets
Limitations to consumer culture