Healthy Vegetarian Diet. The Pros, the Cons, but Gassingly Worth it.

A Vegetarian Cow Made of Vegetables and Fruits

A Vegetarian Cow Made of Vegetables and Fruits

Have you been contemplating becoming a vegetarian to reduce your footprint on the Earth?  Perhaps, your cholesterol is out of control or you just don’t feel as good as you would like to feel? Last August, I decided to take the plunge into becoming a vegetarian for the above reasons.  But it hasn’t been easy.

Don’t get me wrong.  I wouldn’t change becoming a vegetarian for the world.  But before you make this transition or start reducing your meat intake in favor of a more plant based diet, here is some insight to my own transition. The pros and cons.

The Pros of Becoming a Vegetarian:

Reduced Carbon Footprint

One of the reasons I decided to become a vegetarian was to reduce my footprint on the Earth. To be honest, eating meat scared the heck out of me. Why?

No Cruelty of Animals:

Is it right for us to eat animals?  I have grappled with this very thinking for years, and refused to eat veal because it is baby cow.  I also could not eat sheep because it reminded me of Little Boo Peep.  I did however, eat cow and tuna fish.  (The only fish I truly enjoyed…out of a can!)

But then I started to wonder how can I eat any animal? Our commercial animal farming industry was downright cruel.  I was not alone in my thinking.  Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Eating Animals, stated in his USA Today interview,

“The rule is animals in tiny cages where they can’t turn around, in just this very ordinary kind of misery. The just insane vastness of the industry, 50 billion animals that are factory-farmed every year. It actually just boggles the mind.”

PETA (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals) second the cruelty and states,

Farmed animals are every bit as intelligent and capable of feeling pain as the dogs and cats we cherish as our companions. They are inquisitive, interesting individuals who value their lives, solve problems, experience fear and pain, and are capable of using tools.

Yet the more than 16 billion animals who are killed for food every year in the U.S. have little legal protection from cruelty that would be illegal if it were inflicted on companion dogs or cats. They are neglected, mutilated, genetically manipulated, put on drug regimens that cause chronic pain and crippling, transported through all weather extremes, and killed in gruesome and violent ways.

Eating animals just seemed barbaric to me.

Reduced Pollution of our Waterways:

Animal Factory ‘s author, David Kirby. stated in his interview with TIME Magazine that he witnessed the store liquefied, untreated manure from pigs sprayed into out waterways and creeks. He states,

“We would never allow big, open cesspools of untreated human waste to just sit out on the ground near people’s homes and schools. And yet because it’s agriculture, the rules are different.”

This just sickens me.

Health Benefits

Eating a balanced vegetarian diet will make your healthier.  A study by Johanna T. Dwyer, which was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, revealed that  vegetarians have lower blood pressure, lower mortality rate, are leaner, and less likely to suffer from coronary disease, gallstones, or diabetes II.    Better yet, if you switch to a vegetarian diet, Dr. Micheal Roizen, author of The RealAge Diet: Make Yourself Younger with What You Eat, states you can add 13 healthy years on to your  life.

For me, I sleep better and seem to remember my dreams more.  Is this an Anna phenomenon or do you feel the same way (for those who made the switch?) Also, my sister tells me my skin looks better.   Have any of you noticed any changes?

CONS

I would be remiss to tell you becoming a vegetarian has become a cake walk.  There was the horrible gas, lack of food, and constant explaining. I will provide you with my tips to get around these “annoying” cons so that embracing vegetarianism will be a snap.

How Gas haunts me.

Eating a plant based diet can cause gas since you are now incorporating beans, ruffage such a broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower, and soy into your diet.  In addition, you might start to eat more fiber.

Your body has to get used to your new diet.  In my case, I have been waiting for 5 months for my body to adjust.   During that 5 months, I have had the worse gas.  Seriously.  Smelly, loud, and my stomach makes lots of noise.

Now, having gas is a touchy subject.  In fact, Dr Oz on Ophra said “a half liter of gas escapes the body in little aliquots times.”  All due respects to Dr. Oz, flatulence is embarrassing and smelly. But think beans make your gas smell worse?  Dr. Oz further stated “beans don’t make gas that smells bad. Meat, eggs [and] cauliflower—the leftover from these foods have sulfur in them, and they form methane gas.”

Personally, I think all my gas smells like sulfur.  I wanted to start hiding from the world.  Unfortunately, I still have alot of gas regardless what I eat. I think I just have a horrible digestion system, possibly a food sensitivity, or need to drink more water.  (Most likely the later.)  I have tried to reduce my soy intake completely, but the gas continues to return.  Dr. Oz, help.

I have tried the following which may work for you:

  • Add a strip of kombu while cooking my beans. Some say a whole potato works. I try and avoid  eating canned beans since I know I will pay for it later.
  • Take Nature’s Plus’ “Say Yes to Beans.”  Note Beano is not vegetarian.
  • Take Acidophilus.
  • Reduced my soy intake and eat only fermented soy such as tempeh and miso.
  • Reduce my milk intake since milk and I never got along.  I eat pizza and yogurt once in awhile.
  • Drink fennel or chamomile tea.  This really helps when the gas upsets my colon.

I don’t want to scare you away from becoming a vegetarian.  My reaction may be severe. My husband, on the other hand,  only had this problem for the first month.  Thereafter, he only is gassy when he overeats.

What have you used to alleviate the gas?

The Lack of Food:

Be sure if you are attending a party or function that your host knows you are a vegetarian.  You just want to find out what they are serving.   In my case, a cheese laden lasagna would be death to me.  (As well as to everyone else in the room.) So, I would eat before and nibble at a salad.

My husband attended a meetings despite explaining he was a vegetarian, and all he could eat was a cheese sandwich. I would have died. I told him in the future, I would pack him a lunch.

Losing Weight:

Some people decide to be vegetarians since they think they will lose weight.  It is true that vegetarians are leaner than their non-vegetarian counterparts.  But, I can tell you I haven’t lost an ounce  And rest assured if you eat a crappy junk food laden with lots of bread and cheese diet, you aren’t going to lose weight.  I believe (and correct me if you don’t agree), losing weight is basically the amount of calories expended is more than the calories consumed.  If you eat less calories and exercise more, you will lose weight, provided you don’t eat too little calories.  (Then you system goes into starvation mode.)  My husband, on the other hand, lost 8 pounds since he is eating more vegetables.

With being a vegetarian, it is still important to eat more fruits and vegetables and whole grains. (Remember the buckwheat I grew? Great source of nutrition.)  Calling all Nutrionists, weigh in here.

Giving Up Meat is not an option

Becoming a Flexitarian

Giving up meat is not always an option.  My children are carnivore and are probably the closest to cave men that I have ever seen.  I don’t see a meatless diet in their future.  However, you can reduce your meat consumption, and become a flexitarian.  (Don’t you love modern society.  A label for everyone.) I have been one for years. A flexitarain is person who seeks out vegetarian meals or vegetarians who sometimes eat meat.

If you fall into this category, you aren’t alone. According to Charles Stahler, co-director of the Baltimore-based Vegetarian Resource Group, 30 to 40% seek out vegetarian meals.   In fact, Dawn Jackson Blatner, a registered dietitian in Chicago, wrote a cook book for the casual vegetarian: The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease, and Add Years to Your Life. (You can buy it at the GT store. Just click the book link.) Want more information about her book and the flexitaran lifestyle read her USA Today interview.

Ethical Omnivore

Eating Animals Author Foer stated in his USA Today interview that there is a small percentage of farmer who treat their animals with respect. But how do you find such farmers?  The Humane Animal Care, a not for profit organization,  has established rigorous standards for the humane treatment of animals from birth to slaughter. Its program, The Certified Humane Raised and Handled® program, provides certification and labeling for those farms who comply with their standards.  Their goal “is to improve the lives of farm animals by driving consumer demand for kinder and more responsible farm animal practices. ”  To buy Certified Humane® products  in traditional shopping markets, see here.  In addition, the organization provides a comparison chart of the different food certification labels.  Don’t be fooled that a USDA organic label insures ethic animal practices.

I  highly endorse becoming a vegetarian.  You might be wondering why I haven’t gone vegan.   I am flirting with it, but I like cheese pizza and yogurt ice cream, but I am working on it.  I guess I am a flexi-vegan since I really don’t eat dairy or eggs that much.

Questions

  • Have you switched?  If so, had any problems?
  • What do you find most annoying about being a vegetarian?
  • Have you switched to vegan?
  • What do you do about the gas?  Any suggestions?
  • Have any favorite cookbooks?
  • Have some favorite cooking sites.  Link them in the comments. I don’t care if it is your site.
  • What is your favorite vegan or vegetarian dish?  Link it here in the comments.

Look for Meatless Monday as being an addition to Green Talk. I hope you will contribute your favorite recipes as well.

Photo by Nigel Wedge


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Comments

  1. 7

    Amber says

    I decided to try being vegetarian for a month (I dubbed it Meatless March). I’ve always wanted to try being a vegetarian, since I grew up on a very small farm, we raised and ate our own pigs, cows, and chicken eggs. But we didn’t sell it, it was pretty much just for the family. So I grew up close to the animals, and when the day came that they went to slaughter, I cried and cried. I told my mom I wanted to go veg, and she said that I had to figure out how to eat a balanced veg diet (a daunting task for a 13 year old, before the popularity of the internet!). Needless to say, it didn’t happen. Growing up, I never really enjoyed meat, then I got married and learned to cook, and became quite good. So then it dawned on me, now that my world is so much different, I should try being vegetarian. So I’m almost a month in, and I plan on continuing. My husband has had about enough. I’ve lost 7 lbs and have eaten the most delish meals. I don’t have a gas problem, but I do drink lots of water and my diet was pretty fiberous before hand. Check out the vegan zombie, he has a youtube channel, where he cookes up vegan dishes with a bit of a story line.

  2. 8

    Amy says

    Interesting post. I think that being a vegetarian has many benefits that is why i became a vegetarian . I did not my own research and read a few books. I recently joined a few online free newsletters like Vegetarian Newbie http://www.vegetariannewbie.com i loved their free report!!

  3. 10

    Emily says

    I tested out being a vegetarian a year ago then went back to eating meat. I just recently switched back to being vegetarian and I am so happy to have made that choice. The only problems I have with it is the gas. Which is only a problem because I love cheese and eat a lot of it even though it doesn’t agree with me. Other than the gas, I LOVE being a vegetarian.

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