Plant-Based Dieting: Is It Really the Best Choice for Health
When you glance upon the newest issue of a magazine or log into your social media accounts, one of the first things you will notice is society’s newest craze: the vegan diet. Extreme diet trends are common in today’s popular culture which makes influencing younger people into plant-based diets simple. Your average 18-25 year old, who is up to date with the latest celebrity gossip, fashion, and health trends are likely to be enticed by the physical benefits of plant-based dieting. However, do they research what the effects of vegetarianism are? And, is it really the best choice for their health? Although, the latest trends and research heavily promote vegan diets, it is best to consult with a medical professional and consider the health risks prior to participating in extreme diet trends.
Those considering a vegan diet may question any arguments against it. Perhaps they have read many articles or watched YouTube videos about the plant-based diet and how it can reduce the effects of major health issues. According to the director of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard – affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Kathy McManus, she explains that the benefits of a veggie diet include “lower body mass index and blood pressure; reduced risks for heart disease, diabetes, and cancer; and longer life”. McManus also raises a point that being vegetarian can help with short- term issues like weight loss and prevention of certain diseases. Before diving head first into a restrictive diet solely based on online recommendations, consider your choice with rational reasoning. If you consult with a doctor then a vegetarian diet can possibly help jumpstart a new health journey for you or at the minimum give you inspiration to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your normal diet. Or as McManus suggests, “incorporate an all-vegetarian meal once or twice a week. If you like it, keep adding vegetarian—or vegan—meals until you’re fully immersed in the diet”. If you do intend on making a change in your diet there are other options for the type of vegetarian you can become. For instance, in the article ‘Is a Vegetarian or Vegan Diet for You?’, published by Harvard Health, there is a breakdown of each type of vegetarian diet. The semi-vegetarian diet, where “you still eat animal products, but more selectively… and eat chicken and fish but not red meat”. There is the pescatarian diet, in which “you avoid meat and poultry but still eat fish and seafood”. Next, is the lacto-ovo vegetarian, where “you skip all meat, fish, and poultry but include dairy and eggs in your diet”. And lastly, the vegan diet, which is “the strictest form of vegetarianism”. It is a “solely plant-based diet; you eat no animal products at all—not even eggs or dairy products”. These type of meal plans all have a general similarity. The absence of certain meats or meat and animal products as a whole. The decision of cutting out meat may indeed be suitable for you and your lifestyle, but you should not feel pressured into the extreme forms of the diet. As listed, there are various alternatives for decreasing the amount on meat within your meal plan. It is simply up to the discretion of you and your physician to figure out what will most effectively improve your health.
On the contrary, research from Cooking Light explains that by “decreasing animal protein intake by following a plant-based diet (vegan, as well as other vegetarian diet forms) is suggested to have a lower carbon footprint on the environment and to be more sustainable”. There are also moral reasons behind wanting to transition into certain vegetarian diets, however, it is crucial to understand the consequences of such restrictions. Within the article ‘You Asked: Is a Vegan Diet Better?’, published by Time, Loren Cordain, professor emeritus of health and human sciences at Colorado State University, informs readers about the misconceptions of veganism. He states that “compared to the average American diet, a vegan diet looks very healthy, especially in the short term, but in the long-term, there aren’t any clear mortality benefits, and in fact, vegan diets may be less healthy than diets that include meat”. Since Cordain is an advocate for the well-known paleo diet (which “typically includes lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds”, according to the Mayo Clinic), he raises a concern about proper nourishment from strict vegan diets. The article suggests that “iron, zinc, calcium and other essential nutrients are lacking in a vegetable-only diet”. The usual followers of mainstream trends must consider these risks before going weeks without vitamins that are found only in certain meats and other animal products.
Say you haven’t visited your physician in a few years and since then you became anemic. Usually, your doctor will suggest higher levels of red meat intake throughout your diet and maybe even iron pills to supplement what your blood is lacking. If you did not know this information and proceeded with a strict vegan diet, you might cause more harm to yourself than what you intended because you assumed a vegetarian diet would work for you. Likewise, within a WebMD article, Katherine Tallmadge, RD, LD and past media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests: “A vegetarian diet doesn’t necessarily lead to weight loss – especially if you eat out at restaurants often, a lot of times, the only vegetarian dishes on the menu are cheesy and fattening”. Going about a veggie diet should be well researched and you should inform yourself about the ways to do so in a healthy manner. Even though you say you are vegetarian for health reasons, your plate consisting of carb rich potatoes and pasta may cause different results than what you expected. People should embrace their individuality and personal choices especially when it comes to their body and health. And although, the advantages sound enticing it is important to consult with your doctor or a nutritionist to plan out which kind of balanced diet is for you before you fully commit to a vegetarian diet based on information your favorite celebrity discussed.
In today’s popular culture, it is extremely simple to start a trend and weeks later notice everyone following it. This is because social media platforms provide a large space for millions of users to connect and engage with each other. With the immense amount of social media influencer and celebrity presence online, it is easy to share with tons of people the contents of your new favorite pressed juice or meal plan for the week. Social media users, especially around the ages of 18-25, are impressionable and are most likely to participate in these trends. This age group specifically has the most presence online and most people in this range are either full time students or work with peers their age. This indicates that there is a sense of community among 18-25 year olds, and when a trend is popular it is bound to spread like wildfire. Personally, I have witnessed and participated in a trend this past year while being a college student. It began at the beginning of the quarter when I would see students walking around with a certain reusable water bottle. To me, it looked like any other thermal or rambler, but there was a small logo near the top center of the bottle which made it identifiable. Then, I began to see ‘memes’, or online jokes accompanied by a funny caption, about a Hydro Flask. Every day on Twitter I would come across a picture of the water bottle or hear my friends complain about forgetting their Hydro Flask at home. Apparently, this water bottle claimed to keep your cold drinks cold for long periods of time and hot drinks hot for a long period of time. I was skeptical about $40+ water bottle, but because everyone around me had one and they were flying off shelves I decided that I needed one too. A few days later, I bought a Hydro Flask and used it every day and held it in my hand instead of keeping it in my backpack to show it off and let it be known that I was now a Hydro Flask owner. However, after about 2 weeks I grew tired of carrying around a huge water bottle and having to wash it every day and fill it up with water every morning. Since then, I have not used or even touched my Hydro Flask that I was once very excited about. The point is, trends do not always last and although some people still carry around their 40-ounce water bottle every day, for me it was a nuisance and I no longer carry it with me. Similarly, it is the newest trend for celebrities to go vegan and eat at expensive vegan restaurants. In their interviews you hear them explain that their weight loss was due to eating an all plant-based diet and avoiding animal products at all costs. This can very easily influence or persuade an impressionable person to want to go vegan as well in attempts of achieving the same look as a celebrity. The difference is, these celebrities have the money and resources to sustain a vegan diet. They are able to hire the most accredited nutritionist, dietitians, and gym trainers to help them reach the body image they desire and that is currently through the help of the trendy vegan diet. Unfortunately, a majority of these 18-25 year old do not have the same means to provide for their desired lifestyle as celebrities do. It is important for young people to research what the effects of certain trends are especially when it is one that can drastically impact their health.
All points considered, the different types of vegetarian diets can be beneficial to one’s health. It is found to decrease high levels of serious diseases, help with weight loss, and prevent some illnesses. However, these days the popular vegan diet has become a trend among Hollywood’s elite and influencing young, impressionable people to follow the diet as well. This becomes dangerous when people do not properly research about the foods they are and aren’t consuming. Making impulsive decisions about dieting can impact our health if we do not consult with a professional first. That is why there are ways to test the waters with vegetarian diets such as incorporating vegetarian/ vegan meals a few times a week or allowing more fruits and vegetable into our meals every day. We should not feel pressured into following extreme diets because a trend advocates for it, if we do so it should be to improve our health with the approval of our doctor.
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