Meat vs plants a health and fitness focus

(2 mins 30 secs read)Vegan diets are gaining popularity globally and in The U.K. the number of vegans has risen 360% in the last ten years. Veganism was once seen as an extreme, restrictive eating regime. Attitudes are changing. Many supermarkets now stock own-brand vegan products and increasing numbers of high street restaurants and cafes now offer vegan options. Recently Pret-a-Manger announce a second Veggie Pret was due to open in London this year following the success of its first 'veggie only' branch in Soho.Meat vs plants a health and fitness focusLet's just clear up the definition of vegan, vegetarian, pescatarians and so forth.

  • Vegans excludes meat, seafood and dairy. Also excluded are foods produced using animals, such as honey, wines, beer and cider filtered using animal products.
  • Vegetarians do not eat meat or fish but do eat dairy products
  • Ovo-vegetarians include eggs in their diet.
  • Lacto-vegetarians include milk.
  • Pescatarians consume fish.
  • Flexitarians consume meat occasionally.

Meat vs plants a health and fitness focusThere are significant health differences between vegetarians and meat-eaters. A majority of the positive ones fall on the side of the plant-eaters. Regardless of the type of vegetarian, consuming a primarily plant-based diet can yield a great deal of health advantages.

Characteristics of a Plant-Based Diet

  • Naturally lower in calories, saturated fat and cholesterol than carnivorous diets
  • Higher in fiber, vitamins, minerals and health-promoting antioxidants. Plant-based nutrients include potassium, magnesium, folate and vitamins C and E.

Plant Protein

  • Plant protein can adequately meet or even exceed recommended requirements when a variety of plant foods are consumed. Eating whole grains and legumes such as rice and beans, together creates complete proteins.
  • Plant-based proteins are most favorable because they contain beneficial nutrients such as complex carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins and fiber.
  • Vegetable protein sources include beans, peas, lentils, nuts, seeds and grains. Whether you're vegetarian or not, these foods should be a central part of your diet.

Meat vs plants a health and fitness focus

Lower Body Weight & Longer Life Expectancy

  • Vegetarian men live an average of 9.5 years longer than their meat-eating counterparts.
  • Vegetarian women an average of 6.1 years longer.
  • In studies, carnivores had the highest body weight for their age and vegans the lowest (an average of 30 pounds lighter), with vegetarians and semi-vegetarians falling in between.

Lower Risk of Disease for Vegetarians

  • Lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Lower risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancers, type-2 diabetes and insulin resistance.
  • Meat eaters frequently have a higher risk of cancer and overall disease.
  • Semi-vegetarians, who eat meat about once a week, do not reap the same level of benefit but are still found to have intermediate protection against lifestyle diseases.

Additional Health Benefits for Vegetarians

  • Vegetarians consume about the same amount of key nutrients as meat-eaters. Vitamin B-12 is of most concern.
  • Vegetarians are less likely to develop food allergies. Less in danger of foodborne illnesses. Consume fewer of the hormones and antibiotics that are administered to animals and passed on to humans through the meat food chain.
  • Vegetarians are more likely to be educated and health conscious since they have made a conscious choice.

Better Mood...Better Sex

  • Eating plants can have a positive impact on your disposition and libido.
  • A higher intake results in more energy, calmness and feelings of happiness.
  • Plant foods contain libido-boosting properties, and a lower body weight assists with increasing sex hormones as well.

Meat vs plants a health and fitness focus

Potential Nutrient Deficiencies

  • Contrary to popular belief, vegetarians consume about the same amount of most key nutrients as meat-eaters.
  • Zinc and vitamin B-12 are of most concern.
  • The intake of calcium, vitamins A, C, D, E, magnesium and iron are typically no lower than that of meat-eaters.
  • Vitamin B-12 can be challenging as it's mainly found in animal products.
  • Plant sources include fortified cereals, veggie burgers and nutritional yeast.
  • Zinc is found in beans, pumpkin seeds, wheat germ and dairy.

If you are considering going meat-free and have any concerns, you can meet with a registered dietitian to form a personalized plan to fit your life.

Further articles to read if you want to know more from the people who know what it is like to make the change:

NQ London asks what it means to choose a vegan lifestyle

NQ London talk vegan with Felix Dickinson