But is going vegetarian or vegan a healthier option for you?
The short answer is... "it depends", or "in many cases, no"!
The long answer follows...
As a Clinical Nutritionist and Naturopath, I analyse my clients' diets for possible deficiencies or excesses which could be contributing to their health conditions. After all, your food makes up your body's cells and enables it to work properly, as long as you are getting the nutrients you need!
I do tend to find that most people eat too many processed or packaged foods, such as grain based foods - cereals, breads and other bakery products, and not enough vegetables. I also tend to see the surprisingly, people aren't eating enough protein (not just meat, but plant based protein too), and not enough healthy fats (but too many bad ones), but I'm mainly taking about vegetables in this article!
With more people eating more plant-based foods to improve their health, that is a great thing! But as with any other foods, there are concerns about quantity and quality, so just because you are vegetarian or vegan, doesn't mean you are healthier than someone who is an omnivore (who eats meat and plant foods)!
Plant food crops grown in large scale monocultures to produce large quantities of single crops are not sustainable, nor good for the environment due to the large amounts of agricultural chemicals used (pesticides, fungicides,and herbicides like Roundup or glyphosate). These mostly toxic chemicals don't come out in the processing of the crops, so you end up eating them, which of course will have some effects on your health. Unless you choose to eat "certified organic" or home grown foods!
Many plant-based diet advocates (including those who push the ridiculous government food guidelines) recommend eating a huge amount of grain-based foods so you get enough fibre. I usually see vegetarians or vegans eating far too many sugary foods or processed grain products which are high in carbohydrates, which leads to high blood sugars, high cholesterol, weight gain, and inflammation. These can contribute to diabetes, and other chronic health conditions, including cancer.
There are some very poor quality "foods" (and I use that term very loosely here) which are marketed as being vegetarian or vegan (see the meme picture) but they are highly processed, full of additives and chemicals, but are nutrient depleted. These "foods" are not going to be good for you, even if they allegedly are "vegan"! And you can just as easily over-eat such "foods" to the detriment of your health.
So just because a food is marketed as being "all natural", "suitable for vegetarians", or "vegan friendly", it doesn't mean that it is healthy or good for you! Highly processed foods which come in a box or plastic packaging are NOT "vegan"! Sorry, but they are not!
We are all different, due to different genetics, ethnicity, and physiology too! There is no one meal plan which is ideal for everyone, and that includes vegetarian or vegan diets. Vegetarian and vegan diets can be a great improvement in SOME people who perhaps haven't been eating enough plant-based foods in the past, but how healthy these diets are really depends on the types of foods chosen, their quality and quantity, and your individual tolerances or intolerances to those foods. I can help you with improving your diets, if you are not getting the benefits or improved health from what you are currently doing!