July 25, 2009

Just Because You Are Vegetarian Doesn’t Mean You’re Healthy!!

To many of us, Vegetarianism is a mystery. Becoming a vegetarian is usually a choice that people make for health reasons, ethical reasons or environmental reasons. But most vegetarians and not particularly healthy, per se.

Being a vegetarian takes work. It takes commitment. It takes dedication and it also takes creativity and knowledge. It’s easy to be an unhealthy vegetarian, but most people have no idea that they are being unhealthy. The reason is usually due to lack of knowledge. If you go to any grocery store today, there is an array of supposedly “healthy” vegetarian foods, but most of these foods are over processed and contain high amounts of soy, gluten, sodium and other ingredients that wreak havoc on our digestive system.

There are many types of vegetarians according to today’s society. But I believe that a true & healthy vegetarian is a person who eats a diet consisting of unprocssed whole foods. Whole foods are fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, healthy fats and the occasional egg. If you think you are doing your body good by becoming a vegetarian while still eating cheese, yogurt, any kind of dairy, white flour, white sugar and processed “vegetarian” foods, you aren’t. You might as well still eat meat and chicken for that matter. Those choices are better than most of the heart clogging, high cholesterol cheeses and yogurts or the acidifying processed foods that will cause heart disease and a whole other ilk of health problems down the line.

If it’s an ethical issue to you, and you don’t care about health, than so be it. Yet anyone who does not care about their health and what they put in their mouth is looking for trouble in the long term. Your body is a temple and the only one you have while you are here. It’s important that you treat it with respect so that it works optimally to assist you in a long, happy and healthy life.

Ok, let’s talk about the different kinds of “vegetarians” (remember, a true vegetarian does not eat any animal flesh at all). A vegan on the other hand, eats absolutely NO animal products including eggs, honey, white sugar & dairy.

Vegetarian: Eats a plant based diet and does not eat red meat, chicken, pork or any other meat from an animal
Pescetarian: A vegetarian who eats fish
Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian: A vegetarian who eats dairy & eggs
Flexitarian (this is a newer type of Vegetarian): one who is a vegetarian but will occasionally eat fish or chicken
Total Vegetarian: does not eat any animal products including eggs, dairy, honey and sometime white sugar (some white sugar is processed with the ash of cow bones so it is not considered vegetarian)
Vegan: Eliminates all animal products from their life even clothing & shoes made from leather, wool or silk.

As I said earlier, many vegetarians can be extremely unhealthy and sometimes it takes a lot of planning to have this type of lifestyle. Eating pizza, nachos, or any other greasy foods that don’t contain meat is not the path to being a healthy vegetarian. Yes, sometimes those foods are easy to grab on the go, but these foods will leave you feeling bloated & tired, along with an array of other possible health problems. And, you will not get the necessary nutrients you need for your body as you would from eating whole foods.

If you are thinking about becoming a vegetarian or already are one, please remember that what you put into your mouth is the most important thing you can do for your body other than exercise. Be mindful of your choices. Eat lots of fresh veggies and fruit. Eat minimal amounts of processed foods. Take baby steps. Cut out one unhealthy food per week and add in a healthy one. If you are used to the Soy chicken nuggets or the frozen pizza from the freezer section, I urge you to rethink those choices and choose foods that are minimally processed. Make time each week to plan your meals.

Remember, having a healthy lifestyle takes work. It’s an investment in your health. You are worth the effort and commitment it takes to be healthy. Before you know it, it will become old hat and you will be feeling and looking better than you ever have in your life! The key to your success is Baby Steps! Have fun!!!

Melissa Costello

Author, Speaker, Culinary Plant-Based Nutrition & Health Empowerment Coach | Cleanse Expert

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