Have you ever wanted to follow a vegetarian diet or wondered what it’s like? For many people, the implementation of a vegetarian diet started in or around their teen years as it lined up with their moral values regarding the importance of and respect for sentient animal life. For others, it was sparked by the pursuit of a healthier lifestyle and weight loss.
A vegetarian diet is supposed to be super healthy, right? The answer to that question might not be so simple. In this article, we’re going to define what a vegetarian really is as well as talk about 5 interesting facts about vegetarianism for beginners.
What is a vegetarian?
Not to be confused with veganism, vegetarianism is a diet in which one does not consume meat. For some, this may also include by-products of animal slaughter. This practice is often adopted for the purpose of respecting sentient animal life, but it may also be adopted out of necessity due to certain medical conditions or even religious purposes.
Now that we know what vegetarianism really is let’s get into the six interesting facts about vegetarian diets.
1. There are different types of vegetarians
There are actually quite a few different categories of vegetarians out there. The different types of vegetarians include:
- Lacto-ovo vegetarian
Veganism is the most extreme version of vegetarianism with the most restrictions. This diet excludes not only all meats but all animal-derived products, including honey made from bees. If you’re not losing weight on a vegan diet, which is a form of vegetarianism, you may need to reassess your diet.
2. Vegetarian is the new Pythagorean
Did you know that the term vegetarian is relatively new? It was originally referred to as Pythagorean and was later replaced by the term vegetarian in the 19th century. Both of these terms refer to a meatless diet, but the reason it used to be known as Pythagorean is because it was named after the famous Greek astronomer and mathematician Pythagoras. He believed that humans who passed away were reincarnated into animals and that eating them was akin to cannibalism. If this is true, that juicy steak topped with sautéed mushrooms could be a loved one who passed.
According to historical records, Pythagoras was known to be a very logically thinking and reasonable man. So, his strong belief in reincarnation was quite strange indeed. As a result of his strong convictions, he, along with his devout followers only ate vegetables, bread, and honey. Pythagoras did attempt to introduce this meatless diet to his fellow Greeks but to no avail. He and his followers would eventually have to hide their diets from the public because meat was a strong part of Greek culture and a meatless diet was considered taboo at the time.
3. Check your vitamin B12 levels
Vitamin B12 deficiencies are extremely common among vegetarians. While you can consume almost all the vitamins and minerals your body needs to run properly on a plant-based diet, B12 is unfortunately not one of them. This is because B12 is only found in meat (including fish), dairy products, and eggs.
It is possible to bring those levels up with supplementation, but they often fall short. Unless you are monitoring and tracking those levels with strict scrutiny, you most likely will not achieve optimal B12 levels. This can lead to unpleasant symptoms such as depression, low energy, anemia, and heart disease, or even experiencing a stroke.
4. Most fall off the wagon within a year
Studies show that the majority of people who adopt a vegetarian diet return to a meat-eating diet within the first year of its implementation. In fact, it’s estimated that only one out of every five vegetarians stay the course while the rest drop off in as little as three months. The reasons for this vary from person to person, with some stating that they reverted back after entering a relationship with a non-vegetarian. Others reported social, financial, or even health reasons.
Interestingly enough, these studies found that even the percentage of participants who ended up converting back to a meat-eating diet claimed that they eat much less meat than they previously consumed on a regular basis compared to before they adopted the vegetarian diet. Go figure.
5. You’re probably not eating enough leafy greens
Eating a vegetarian diet does not automatically mean you’re eating a healthy diet and many vegetarians still don’t get enough leafy greens in their diets. If your meals are not properly balanced with adequate nutrition, your normal body functions are not going to be working at optimal levels. And if you’re trying to lose weight, you may also notice that the scale is not moving in the direction you want it to.
It’s important to be sure you are consuming plenty of leafy greens, such as spinach and kale, among others, on a daily basis. These leafy greens contain important nutrients such as vitamins K, E, C, and A. They also provide lots of fibre which supports healthy digestion and helps to prevent insulin spikes.
Another great benefit to consuming plenty of leafy greens is that they take up a lot of space in your stomach while also being incredibly low in calories. This allows you to feel fuller for a much longer amount of time and prevents overeating, unlike nut and seed oils which are the exact opposite.
6. You’re likely not getting enough protein
A common issue among many vegetarians is that they simply don’t get enough protein in their diet. This is largely because of the lack of meat which is where most people get their protein sources from. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get adequate amounts of protein without meat, but unless you’re tracking your macros, it’s unlikely you are reaching those parameters.
Protein is essential for muscle repair and growth, among many other functions throughout the body, yes, but it also helps to keep you satiated after a meal. The more protein you get in a meal, the longer you will feel full, which helps to stave off unnecessary snacking.
Keep these vegetarian diet facts in mind if you're considering making the switch!
Here are more reasons why you may want to switch to a vegetarian diet.
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