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Should You Be a Vegetarian?

The payoffs and pitfalls of going meatless.

By
Monica Reinagel, M.S.,L.D./N,
November 19, 2008
Episode #018

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A couple of you have asked me to do a show on vegetarianism. Is it a healthier way to eat? Well, it can be. It really depends on how you go about it.

Many studies have shown that vegetarians—on average—live longer, are less likely to be overweight, and have lower rates of cancer, heart disease, and many other diseases.

But statistical studies like this look backward in time. They tell you how yesterday’s vegetarians fared compared with yesterday’s carnivores. That doesn’t necessarily tell you how today’s vegetarians will fare in the future—especially because vegetarianism has become a completely different sport than it was twenty or thirty years ago.

First of all, let’s get our terms straight. Vegetarians come in a variety of flavors. Vegans are vegetarians that consume no animal products of any kind: no meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, or honey. Lacto-vegetarians eat dairy but not eggs. Ovo-lacto-vegetarians eat both eggs and dairy.

Everyone else—the pesca-vegetarians who eat fish, the cluckatarians who eat poultry, and those part-time vegetarians who refuse the pork chop you’ve prepared for dinner and then have bacon the next morning at breakfast—none of these are vegetarians. That doesn’t make them bad people. They’re just not vegetarians. (And, in case you’re wondering, neither am I.)

Vegetarianism is Hip

According to the Vegetarian Resource Group (which is a terrific resource for anyone researching or considering vegetarianism), the number of true vegetarians hasn’t changed that much over the last twenty or thirty years. But the number of people who choose vegetarian options some of the time has sky-rocketed.

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