Vegetarianism: Healthy or Trendy?
‘Vegetarianism is the practice of not eating meat or fish. (oxford dictionary). Within this definition there are many forms (appendix 1) including veganism. In this essay, I will be focusing mainly on veganism which is a much stricter diet excluding all animal products such as dairy products. Throughout the last 10 years the number of vegans has increased by 350% in the UK, with 42% of these being in the age group of 15 and 34. The question I am trying to answer is what has caused this huge increase. As I dived further into my research I found that 88% of these vegans lived in urban and suburban areas showing that big cities have adapted to these specific dietary requirements, such as soya products in coffee shops and restaurants.
The rise of the number of vegans is due to a number of reasons
ZUNCHIES MICE claim that the recent increase in members of the younger generation turning vegan could be due to the relatively new findings from the World Health Organisation which linked processed meats to cancer. However, they also came to the conclusion that, due to the age trend in the number of vegans, perhaps it was associated with the diet’s popularity among celebrities. People such as Jennifer Lopez, Novak Djokovic and Bill Clinton have aided in moving away from the negative image veganism had received in the past. When asked Jennifer Lopez said that being vegan has ‘given her loads of energy’.
However, other research has also indicated shown that there is a clear association with adopting a vegan lifestyle and the absence of serious health issues such as gall stones and appendicitis, resulting in another reason to cut out meat from a diet. Compared with Western people who eat meat, vegetarians have a lower mean BMI and a lower mean cholesterol concentration.
Vegetarians are among the few who consistently take in the government’s recommended five servings a day of these foodstuffs. Eating a wide variety of these two types of foods provides a major health benefit, due to their large amounts of vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals (the latter are useful in preventing cancer). In fact, the American Institute for Cancer Research claims that diets high in fruits and vegetables will prevent 20 percent or more of all types of cancer.
Studies have shown that vegetarians have about a 30 percent lower risk of death from heart disease and perhaps a 40 percent lower risk of cancer. However, some of these benefits may be connected to other lifestyle choices. Experts note that as a group, vegetarians are less likely to be overweight, smoke, or drink to excess, plus they’re more likely to be physically active.
Vegetarians who don’t include dairy in their diet do run the risk of becoming deficient in calcium, which can put them at risk for osteoporosis. Also, they can become iron deficient and perhaps anemic if they don’t eat lots of green, leafy vegetables and other foods high in iron. The latter is a particular concern for women.
Finally, keep in mind that not all vegetarian choices are healthy ones. If a vegetarian diet relies largely on French fries, chips, bagels, soda and fruit, it’s not going to promote good health. Also, whether the source is meat or not, adequate amounts of protein are necessary for good health.