The vegetarian lifestyle has long been the subject of debate, if not controversy. While we’ll probably never agree on whether meat and animal products are good or bad, there will always be conflicting facts from both sides. Indeed, vegetarian facts and myths have come and gone for decades, with studies debunking or supporting each other from both sides. How do you know whom or what to believe? Here are some vegetarian facts worth keeping in mind–and a few myths worth forgetting.
Fact: Vegetarians tend to be healthier, if not thinner.
One could argue that a diet of Big Macs, pizza, and ice cream qualifies as vegetarian, although that’s about as unhealthy as a diet gets. But on the whole, vegetarians are less prone to diseases associated with excess weight. Diabetes, heart disease, and cancer all occur in lower numbers among vegetarians than meat eaters.
Myth: Vegetarians don’t get enough protein.
It’s all a matter of planning. Beans, legumes, dairy, grains, and tofu are all excellent sources of protein, and all are cheap and readily available. Meat contains more protein, but research reveals that most Americans are actually getting too much. Animal and plant proteins are different, though–plant proteins aren’t as easily absorbed and must be aided by Vitamin C sources to be fully effective.
Fact: Vegetarian diets are cheaper.
Recession is a great time to go vegetarian. You can fill a grocery cart with vegetables and not spend more than $25, whereas chicken breasts alone can cost you almost half of that. Imported and out-of-season vegetables are naturally more expensive, but that’s easily solved by buying local and choosing whatever’s in season.
Myth: Vegetarians eventually go vegan.
Vegans are like vegetarians on overdrive–they not give up meat, but will avoid anything and everything that comes from animals, including leather wallets. It’s a bold choice, since even the most innocent-looking products, like cherry drops and gelatin, can involve animals at some point during manufacturing. Going vegetarian is a common starting point for going vegan, but it’s not the only logical path.
Fact: Vegetarians can be physically active.
The notion that vegetarians are weak and skinny comes from the same line of thinking as their supposed lack of dietary protein. Several notable athletes are notably vegetarian–bodybuilder Bill Pearl, footballer Joe Namath, and tennis player Martina Navratilova are just a few examples. Indeed, a vegetarian diet coupled with regular exercise is the best way to stay in shape well into your 70s.