Vegetarianism is a lifestyle choice to reduce the consumption of meat, ranging from pure veganism, or not eating any meat or animal byproducts to pescatarianism, or eliminating beef and processed meats, but still consuming some fish products. It’s possible to maintain a vegetarian diet while following a medical weight loss program, but if you choose to do so, it is best to consult with your doctor about any necessary dietary modifications you may want to make.
Health Benefits and Concerns of Vegetarianism
In June, JAMA Internal Medicine published the findings of a Loma Linda University observational study that evaluated the health of more than 70,000 people who followed a vegetarian diet for religious purposes, and found that those who ate meat once a week or less had an increased life expectancy over those who ate meat regularly. Following a vegetarian diet is also linked to reduced mortality risk associated with heart disease.
If you make the decision to follow a vegetarian diet, you’ll have to be extra careful to maintain a well-balanced diet. Many vegetarians find that the diet reduces quality nutrient sources. Fish provide omega-3s which benefit heart health, while lean white meat like chicken and turkey are high in protein and low in fat. While these healthy foods are eliminated in the vegetarian diet, many unhealthy foods are not. If by cutting out meat you choose to follow a diet that is high in carbohydrates like sugar and grains, then you may actually gain weight despite dietary limitations.
While there are many who choose to follow a vegetarian lifestyle while participating in a weight loss program, cutting out meat is not a sure-fire way to lose weight. There are health benefits associated with reducing meat consumption, but you do not have to eliminate meat altogether to begin experiencing these benefits.
What do you think? Have you eliminated meat from your diet and seen the health benefits? Or have you found that maintaining a balanced diet with all food groups is better for you?
(Information provided by Ethan Lazarus, MD of the Clinical Nutrition Center)