April 2, 2012

WELLNESS: The Truth about Veganism and Vegetarianism

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There are many myths about vegetarianism and veganism. These dietary choices have been on the rise since films like Food Inc., Food Matters and Forks Over Knives shed some light on nutrition, but it seems that lately, vegetarianism and veganism have been getting a bad rap.There are many myths about vegetarianism and veganism. These dietary choices have been on the rise since films like Food Inc., Food Matters and Forks Over Knives shed some light on nutrition, but it seems that lately, vegetarianism and veganism have been getting a bad rap.

Typically, people think that these dietary decisions can cause serious nutrient deficiencies, specifically for vitamin D and iron. But these deficiencies are actually very rare. In fact, vegetarian and vegan diets have loads of health benefits.

A major concern for vegetarians or vegans is often vitamin D deficiency. Though getting enough vitamin D could be problematic, research has shown that the health benefits outweigh the risks. If you care to get sun exposure and take supplements, a vegetarian diet should not impact your vitamin D concentration.

As for iron deficiency, research shows that unless you lack variety in your vegan or vegetarian diet, developing anemia would is unlikely. Supplements and a varied diet with lots of leafy green vegetables should eliminate any possibility of iron deficiency (unless of course you have other health conditions).

Many studies have been conducted to understand how cutting meat out of a diet would impact nutrition. The results suggest that a low-fat vegan diet can be effective in controlling diabetes, and can be instrumental for weight loss.

Vegetarian and vegan diets rely heavily on plant foods and plant constituents, eliminate the intake of red and processed meat by definition, and instead typically consist of healthier proteins like soy and legumes. Many ingredients recommended to balance vegetarian and vegan diets have been linked to cancer prevention, while some research links meat consumption to increased risk of several types of cancer. 

Overall, all the research points to a vegetarian or vegan diet being beneficial to health over a conventional diet. As far as deficiencies or negative impacts of vegetarianism and veganism are concerned, you’re pretty much safe there. Unless you only eat potato chips and pasta, you should be fine. As with any diet plan, the key to staying healthy and not becoming deficient in nutrients is variety!  

Audrey Fotouhi is a student in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She may be reached at akf38@cornell.edu. The Missing Link: Wellness appears on Tuesdays. 

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Original Author: Audrey Fotouhi

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