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Can a vegetarian diet make you sick?

Dear Delialah,

I have been reading your column for a while now and have grown to trust you health advice. My husband has been trying to convince me to become a vegetarian and I am resistant. He has explained all the negative side effects of eating meat such as how it is processed, stress hormones in the meat from the animals during slaughter, antibiotics, etc. I made the switch to organic meats but even this is not good enough for him. While I do understand the poor health effects associated with eating meat, can you tell me if its safe to eat a vegetarian-only diet? I'm afraid I will be lacking in protein, iron, etc.

Thanks,

Rosie Simmons

Dear Rosie,'

Thanks for asking such a great question. I get tons of email on the subject of vegetarianism. Both myself and my husband are vegetarians and I limit my children's consumption of meat. Although organic meats and poultry are better than non-organic, there are other problems with animal foods. Your husband is correct when he warns you about stress hormones in animal meat. Without being too graphic, I will say that animals in slaughterhouses are consistently abused and subject to inhumane treatment. Regardless of an individuals viewpoint on animal rights, the fact remains that these animals are enveloped with intense fear at the moment of slaughter, which leaves adrenaline flooding their bodies and eventually, entering ours if we eat the meat. For more in-depth information, visit www.peta.org.

With that said, if done properly, a vegetarian diet is considered extremely safe and ripe with tons of health benefits. People who consume a diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, etc. Often suffer from less diseases and physical ailments. There are 3 main factors to remember when undertaking the transformation to a vegetarian diet.

Start slowly. If you consume meat products every night of the week, or if you have a meat with every meal of the day, stopping cold turkey is not the way to go. It will leave you feeling dissatisfied and frustrated and chances are you'll just go back to eating meat. Instead, wean yourself off of meat. If you eat a meat with all 3 meals, begin by eliminating meat at one meal. It's generally easier to start with lunch. Do this for a week and then do the same for breakfast, following with dinner a week later. 

Remember that when you eliminate one source of food, unless it is junk food, you need to replace it with another. Your nutrients need to come from somewhere.  You will need to make sure you consume enough protein and iron. Contradictory to what many people believe, this is not hard to do. Although protein is important, our bodies do not require large amounts to function efficiently. Food sources of protein include nuts and seeds, eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, tofu, chick peas, and soya. Iron is crucial to maintain adequate hemoglobin levels and prevent anemia. The type of iron we get from animal meat is not as easily absorbed by our bodies as iron found in plant foods. Taking vitamin C will boost the absorption rate of iron from plant sources. Iron can be found in fortified whole grain cereals, green leafy vegetables such as spinach, beans, broccoli and dried fruits. When consuming a vegetarian diet, it is recommended that you consume a whole foods vitamin and mineral supplement daily.

Becoming a vegetarian to improve your health requires more than just eliminating meat from your diet. I have seen many people make the mistake of eliminating meat and replacing it with unhealthy foods (think french fries, pizza, bagels, sugary treats, etc.). If you are consuming refined sugars and flours, artificial sweeteners and unhealthy carbs, your doing more damage to your body than if you were eating the meat you wish to avoid.

Regardless of whether you choose to become a semi-vegetarian, vegetarian, vegan or remain a carnivore...keep in mind that you really are what you eat. Your body can only perform as effectively as the fuel you provide it with.

Comments

  • Keith Cooke - Charlotte Cruise Ships Examiner 4 years ago

    Great article Delilah! My wife and I are veggie too!! It's a good way of living! :-)

  • Theresa Cooke 4 years ago

    My husband, Keith, posted this on Facebook and I am doing the same. I have been veggie for a year and now we are giving the vegan thing a shot. :-)

  • Jennifer 3 years ago

    I completely disagree that a vegetarian diet it good for everyone. For one thing, since my husband became a vegetarian, his sex drive went from decent to completely non-existent. Plus, he now gets sick ALL (about 4-5 times per month) the time and feels totally run down every day. Plus, he's a pretty healthy vegetarian (eats the Ultimate Meal a lot), yet I don't feel he gets enough protein, vitamins and minerals (he always forgets to take his vitamins as well) and this is the cause for all the problems overall.

    He's also got more body fat than he used to have and believe this is due to the soy intake (very estrogenic/hormonal food) and subtraction on any red meat (which provides testosterone). I feel men especially NEED red meat once in awhile for that hormonal balance.

    The veggies can say what they wish, but my husband's health has been declining since becoming a vegetarian 4 years ago and refuses to acknowledge that it may have anything to do with it. Also, his best frie

  • Jennifer 3 years ago

    cAlso, his best friend who happens to be a vegan and has 5 kids and they are all VERY small children and the younger ones have shown major signs of developmental problems that his sister (she’s a holistic nutritionist) has even noticed and is very concerned about. She had told me that if babies don’t get cholesterol from animal sources or breast milk at a certain age, it can severely affect them neurologically for the rest of their lives.

    Their pathetic excuse for a mother, who had boasted how much she breastfed all the babies in fact rarely breast fed them according to the BF’s sister because she had lived with them for quite sometime and the vile woman (she IS vile apart from anything dietary) would barely feed the kids AT ALL and when she did it was peanut butter and bread or some chips and she gave the babies soymilk (which completely screws them up hormonally). Plus, my husband’s BF’s sister is not a vegetarian or vegan, neither are my children nor I and we NEVER get sick at a

  • Jennifer 3 years ago

    Cont...I buy mostly from Whole Foods and I take fish oil, a whole foods based multi-vitamin, Eco Probiotic and organic bovine colostrum whereas besides the colostrum I steer clear of dairy and gluten. I honestly think that veganism (not vegetarianism) can be form of child neglect because I have SEEN with my own eyes the disastrous results that the children have to pay for in the end because their parents didn’t care enough to at least balance the diet with enough non-soy protein. I guess my point is, IF they’re going to live this way, then they need to do some SERIOUS planning or else their kids are going to be malnourished and unhealthy in the long run.

  • Jennifer 3 years ago

    Cont... Just for the record, I did try a vegetarian diet myself for 6 months to honor what my husband wanted and ended up feeling run down, sickly, plus I gained over 40 lbs that I absolutely could not lose no matter what I did. I went to a holistic MD and found that I had a massive imbalance in my hormones, was eating way too many carbs for what my body could handle and was producing a ton of estrogen (ah-hah, hmm, what was it??) It was THE SOY in place of the meat! I also found that being a O blood type I NEEDED meat to stay balanced. It took a few years, but I got re-balanced and lost the weight and feel great eating red meat every few days. No, I don't need a ton of meat, but I feel much better eating it a couple times a week. I am aware that A blood type does not digest red meat very well, so I understand why some may do well on a vegetarian diet, yet I personally did not along with seeing detrimental results in several around me that are vegans and vegetarians.

  • dana 3 years ago

    Jennifer....wow...sounds like your venting about a lot more than being a vegetarian. As Delilah said in her article, replacing meat with carbs will make you fat. The main reason veggie diets fail is bc people do it wrong. you cant replace healthy vegetables, fruits, whole grains, etc with processed soy burgers and expect to remain healthy and thin. use some common sense.

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