I know this is a very controversial topic and many people are very passionate about it. Whether you are a vegan or a carnivore, it is essential to stay impartial and look at the available evidence and discuss some of the pros and cons of these diets.
I will start first by saying that I don’t advocate for any specific diet or approach since there are so many things to consider when deciding what would be the best diet for someone.
People love simplicity and clear instructions - “everybody should eat this” or “you should not eat this”. This makes sense considering how many decisions we have to make throughout the course of a day and the amount of information available to us online. We are bombarded with conflicting information every day, and eventually, it just becomes too much. However, it is important to understand that what works for you might not work for someone else.
There are three main things to consider when deciding whether you should become vegan or vegetarian: health, ethics and environmental impact.
HEALTH - A vegan or vegetarian diet is not necessarily healthier diet compared to a regular omnivore diet. Many vegans assume that just because they are eating plants, they are healthier. This is not true and in fact, many vegans have poor health markers and develop nutrient deficiencies if not planning their diet properly.
Vegans and vegetarians can at times struggle with getting enough protein, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin deficiencies (B12, D3) and mineral deficiencies (zinc, magnesium, calcium). Also, some individuals with irritable bowel syndrome are better off reducing plant-based foods, whereas individuals struggling with constipation are generally better off increasing their intake of plant-based foods.
On the other hand - a lot of people eat just too much meat. Especially overconsumption of red meat, processed meat and cooking meat on open flame increase risk of cancer (heterocyclic amines, nitroso compounds). These dieters would benefit significantly from decreasing meat consumption and increasing plant consumption.
ETHICS - This is one of the main reasons why I decided to decrease consumption of animal-based products. Most factory-farmed animals live horrible lives. A quick Google search will demonstrate this. For this reason, I think people should at least try to reduce meat consumption, focus on free-range or wild-caught animals. The great news is that scientist are working towards creating artificial, lab-grown meat which would be a fantastic accomplishment (excellent quality protein and no animal suffering).
ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT - Meat production is one of the main ways in which we impact our environment. To grow animals we need to cut down forests to create pasture and use large amounts of fuel, pesticides, water, and land to support the livestock feed. This increases greenhouse gas production and causes water and air pollution. This negatively impacts our climate and all living things.
What does this all mean for you?
If you are a vegan or vegetarian: you made a great decision to preserve our planet and reduce animal suffering. If you don’t eat animal products or don’t consume enough of them - make sure that your diet is not lacking any nutrients. Not getting all the nutrients means worse health and inability to reach your fitness goals.
If you are someone who tends to eat a lot of meat: it is worth considering reducing meat consumption. Aside from improving your health, you will positively impact the environment and save more animals. Limit processed meat intake and reduce red meat consumption to 2-3 days/week.
Let me know if you have any questions or help with setting up your diet.
NEM - NEMANJA SAMBAHER
Nem is the owner and head coach at TO Kinesiology. He is a certified Personal Trainer and Registered Kinesiologist with a Master of Science degree in Kinesiology. Nem is a published author with a strong science background with some of his papers appearing in journals like Neuroscience, Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. He's also been featured for online publications like Stack.com, Running Room, Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, etc. You can read more about Nem here.
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