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Vegetarianism and Weight Loss

Did you know one of the benefits many vegetarians experience is weight management? Are you interested in becoming a vegetarian, but have heard that vegetarian diets aren't healthy? Actually, vegetarian diets can be just as nutritious as meat-based diets; with the proper research and planning, vegetarianism is a very healthy way of life.

It is a misconception that vegetarians suffer from poor nutrition. It is thought that they do not gain enough nutrients -- specifically protein -- from their vegetable-based diets. This has been dispelled by recent medical and scientific studies. A well-planned vegetarian diet can include as much protein as one that includes meat.

Judy Henderson is a Family and Consumer Sciences Educator with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service who specializes in foods and nutrition. I spoke to Henderson in regard to a healthy vegetarian diet.

She suggested there are many benefits from choosing a vegetarian diet: "Advantages of being a vegetarian may be lower fat diets, a healthier heart, plenty of vitamins A and C, cancer prevention, lots of fiber and weight management." According to Henderson, the health benefits of vegetarianism are plentiful.

You may have heard that new vegetarians risk becoming unhealthy, lack energy or become sickly due to poor nutrition. On the contrary, as long as the vegetarian plans their diet well, proper nutrition should not be a problem. You will find some great resources on the Web like our own About vegetarianism site, which is linked to your right. There are also magazines like "Vegetarian Times" that inform you about meal planning, nutrition, substitutions and recipes. Check your local library or bookstore for a plethora of books that are geared towards newbie veggies.

If a vegetarian does encounter nutrition problems, it is poor diet, not vegetarianism in and of itself that leads to malnutrition. Henderson warns of the pitfalls: "[Vegetarianism] requires much more effort in planning to include the combinations of plant foods that will give you enough proteins. Often if vegetarians do not get enough protein it is due to poor planning... those vegetarians who include eggs and dairy products in their diets should not have this problem." If weight loss is a priority, just make sure the products you choose are low- or non-fat versions.

When you begin experimenting with new foods and recipes, you may find that you crave healthier foods more often. You may experience some strong cravings for meat until your body adjusts, but in the meantime, savor the new foods -- have you ever thought of new ways to prepare an eggplant? Ever tried rhubarb? You may not have as a carnivore when cheeseburgers were a mainstay. By eliminating meat, you may find that it is much easier to stay focused on eating fresh, healthy foods. And when you become more focused on healthy eating, weight loss is a great side effect!

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