Vegetarianism: Health or hype

Illustration by Ainsley Davis.


By Alli Gray

Crisp fruits, colorful vegetables, and crunchy quinoa are just three of the many fulfilling foods that satisfy a vegetarian’s stomach. A vegetarian is someone who eats a plant-based diet and avoids any meat or fish. With vegetarianism on the rise, people have noticed the numerous physiological and physical health benefits of such a lifestyle. Adopting this diet opens a doorway of benefits and leads to a healthier life.

When it comes to health as a vegetarian, most people worry about the effort and money it takes to eat a nutritional diet. What isn’t realized is that a vegetarian meal plan costs about the same or less than a meat-eater’s if prepared at home. At Walmart, a pound of low-quality meat or chicken costs up to $5 while a pound of tofu, fruits, or vegetables costs about $3. Other staples of the diet, such as whole grains and beans, also come at a reasonable price: a 12-ounce bag of quinoa costs under $6 and a can of chickpeas is less than $2. There is also the convenience factor to consider: eating raw meat also takes time to cook, season, and prepare while vegetarian meals can take less than 15 minutes.

Meat is associated as the only source of protein. In fact, there are many others like eggs, Greek yogurt, peanut butter, and beans like lentils and edamame that a vegetarian needs. Meanwhile, meat is high in saturated fat and raises cholesterol. Because of it’s high fat content, it is linked to heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. According to UCSF health, three and a half ounces of ground beef contains 78 milligrams of cholesterol and 18 grams of total fat. One cup of lowfat yogurt has 10 milligrams of cholesterol and just three grams of fat while black beans, another source of protein, have zero milligrams of cholesterol and less than two grams of fat. The processed meat that’s filled with sodium raises blood pressure, and more people should eliminate it from their diets.

Along with all of its fat and cholesterol, meat can be hard on the physical and mental health of the body. The World Health Organization declared processed meat a carcinogen shown to increase chances of colon or rectum cancer by 18%. A carcinogen is a substance capable of causing cancer in the tissues. Meat-eaters are also three times more likely to be overweight than vegetarians. According to studies conducted by Quartz media, vegetarians are shown to live six to nine years longer than non-vegetarians. Not only is eating meat bad for health, it affects a person’s mood. High intakes of arachidonic acid found in meats and poultry cause a change in the brain, which can then disturb the consumer’s mood and cause depression.

Going vegetarian can be intimidating especially when it’s new and different from what others eat. Some vegetarians even think they’re losing relationships because of their new lifestyle, but it’s completely the opposite. Becoming a vegetarian doesn’t mean losing all non-vegetarian friends, and vegetarianism actually adds a whole new community of people that practice the same healthy habits and recipes.

Going vegetarian has multiple benefits, and if researched and organized thoroughly beforehand, it works wonders on the body and the mind. With the right food and ambitious attitude, vegetarianism can change a person’s life and health.

By Bekah Denny

Cows chew grass, chickens peck corn, and humans cut into a juicy piece of rib-eye steak.  Vegetarianism, in theory, is a great concept but the practice of this lifestyle can be damaging to not only a person’s wallet but also their health and relationships.   

The movement that started its take over within the last decade with 6% of the American population jumping on the bandwagon in 2014 according to Plant Based News, has hidden the true dangers and troubles of this meatless lifestyle. Let’s face it; food is expensive. Organic foods, in particular, are a favorite among vegetarians, but these foods have an average premium hike of 46.75%, as reported in  Consumer Reports. Along with this almost 50% price increase for organic produce, soy/rice/almond/coconut-based alternatives are also far more expensive than the real thing. People cannot be expected to just gnaw on a leaf for three meals a day, so burgers and milkshakes are still a must, and most vegetarian alternatives are only composed of plant-based alternatives. Beyond Burgers, a vegetarian frozen pattey, is $11.98 per pound while organic grass-fed beef retails at $6.99 per pound.    

First comes cost, then comes health, then comes passing out in a Cafe Rio line due to lack of iron. Lack of protein, B12, calcium, vitamin D, and iron put the body at risk if the right supplements aren’t taken, which, by the way, is just another expense. Side effects of a decrease in these nutrients are dizziness, fatigue, nausea, anemia (lack of iron) and respiratory problems. Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy proteins mirror the natural proteins found in the human body. These proteins are considered to be “complete” sources while substitutes like beans, lentils and nuts are “incomplete” because they lack the essential amino acids the body needs to function. It’s important to take into account that if an individual has pre-existing conditions, like anemia, their body may not be able to handle even the slightest imbalance of nutrients.  

If a junk-food-eating vegetarian wants a quick, frozen meat alternative, they can look forward to infertility, early puberty and cancer. Soy, a common ingredient found in meat alternatives, is a major health concern for men and women alike. According to the Global Healing Center a person’s fertility is at risk if an abundance of phytoestrogens–estrogen compounds, which are naturally found in soy, are consumed. Cancer and early puberty are other side effects tied to the elements found in the soy plant.

Vegetarianism is a lifestyle, not a hobby. Parents shop for the entire household, but what if they don’t follow the same lifestyle? Unhealthy eating habits, like grilled cheeses five times a week, develop and health becomes an issue in an attempt to avoid the chicken Dad just made for dinner. Vegetarianism isn’t simply just excluding meat; it’s also knowing what foods and supplements have to be taken as well to make up for the proteins lost. Simply cutting meat from a person’s diet doesn’t make them vegetarian, knowing what necessary proteins and nutrients to take does.

This lifestyle also affects relationships with not only parents but friends as well. Friends come and go, but going vegetarian is a sure way to unintentionally alienate either side. Going to restaurants that friends previously frequented but can’t now because of one specific individual, provokes the phrase “let’s just go without him/her this time.” There is also a reciprocated sense of judgement a group feels when one of them chooses not to eat the same meal as the rest of the party for “moral reasons.” Food is a social activity; take that away and friends drift farther from each other.

Sure, there are benefits to going vegetarian, but the devastating consequences can make the lifestyle a dangerous gamble.