Lately, I’ve had some issues deciphering the health risks and benefits of vegetarians and vegans versus meat eaters. I’ve had conversations about this topic with people that I know. I know vegetarians and some vegans, but after talking with them, I was still left wondering: what makes them different health wise? Are vegans healthier than vegetarians?
After doing some research, here’s what I’ve found:
According to a vegetarian nutrition website, vegans are often thinner and have lower blood pressure and cholesterol than vegetarians. This leads to vegans having a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes. The website states that there is this health difference because vegan diets are richer in dietary fiber and higher in potassium and magnesium, as well as vitamins C and E. Also, eliminating meat from a diet doesn’t necessarily mean that saturated fat and cholesterol intake is lowered if dairy products are still being consumed. So, vegetarians may still maintain a high saturated fat and cholesterol intake by eating dairy, which is a problem that a vegan diet eliminates.
According to this research, vegans are healthier than vegetarians. But, what are vegans missing out on that vegetarians are getting from their diets?
Well, according to the website, vegans are missing out on one major thing: calcium. While dairy products provide a great source of calcium, there are other ways that vegans can make up for not eating dairy. Another thing vegans aren’t getting is vitamin B12. Meat, eggs and milk contain plenty of this vitamin, but plants contain none. Vitamin B12 is not as easily gained in other foods like calcium is, and it is a very important part of a diet because without it one could develop early dementia, lack of coordination and memory loss. B12 can be found in soy and rice beverages, some cereals and meat substitutes.
So, I understand what vegetarians can eat: anything but meat. But, what does a vegan diet consist of? Well, vegans eat anything that’s not from an animal. That’s where my questions begin. So, what exactly can vegans eat?
Well, according to the Vegan Society website, vegans can eat more than you would imagine. There are vegan alternatives to virtually any food including vegan chocolates, ice cream, yogurt and the list goes on and on. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) website states that some of your favorite products are vegan and you didn’t even realize it. For example, Pepperidge Farm Turnovers, Murray Butter Cookies and Cracker Jacks are all vegan along with a number of snacks such as chips, cookies and candies.
I now have a better idea of what it means to be both a vegetarian and a vegan. After analyzing the health risks and benefits, it seems that vegans are healthier, and it might not be as hard as I thought to be a vegan after all.Contact Augusta Statz.