Nutritionists, health and fitness experts and many more interested parties have long-since debated whether cutting down or eliminating meat from our diets is the best choice for our short and long term health.
As it turns out there are pros and cons to both plant-based diets and meat ones.
One of the main problems with the modern diet is the reliance on too many refined carbs, processed foods, artificial ingredients and a lack of adequate fruit and vegetable portions. In order to eliminate a large portion of this problem a vegetarian or vegan diet would appear to be the option. Many fruits and vegetables boast a wide range of vitamins, minerals, a decent fibre content and of course add interest, colour, variety and flavour to meals. With a diet rich in vegetables and fruits you are ensuring that your body receives the majority of the nutrients it needs to not only survive but thrive.
It is important to be aware however that a non-meat diet may still contain a number of meat alternatives or plant-friendly foods which sound good at face value yet don't actually contain much nutrition at all and are actually higher in sugar and fats than is recommended or processed.
The flip side of enjoying a meat free diet (you can still enjoy the benefits of increased fruit and veg without banning the meat) is that typically those following a strictly vegan-diet (dairy and meat free) tend to suffer from a lack of important nutrients including zinc, calcium, vitamin D, protein, B12 (not naturally provided via plant-based foods) and iron. While most of these are found in plant-based meals their levels are considerably lower compared to meats.
A purely vegetable based diet also lacks the protein-sourced essential amino acids that a body need for a multitude of functions, from maintaining muscle, aiding repair, supporting tendons, ligaments and more. Calories are also something plant-based diets are lacking in, unless you fall back on meat-free alternatives for energy and to fill you up which again are likely to be processed.
What is the Answer?
No-one can say with any authority that it is impossible to live on or even thrive on a vegan diet or a vegetarian diet (Billy Simmons, a vegan body builder who won Mr Natural Universe in 2009 suggest otherwise, as does the success of many other vegan and vegetarian men and women in training). What I am asking you to consider today is that generally speaking science seems to suggest that diets which include meat as well as fruit and vegetables provide us with all of the essential nutrients we need to live healthily and to the best of our abilities. Some would argue that a plant-based diet (for ethical reasons of otherwise) may benefit from supplements to achieve this while others may be experienced in boosting calorie and nutrition levels without eating meat.
Overall the most important thing, whether you choose to eat meat or not is to ensure that regardless of this personal choice you ensure that you are aware of your body's nutritional needs and make sure that they are met. The jury is still out for some however I believe it comes down to listening to your body.
What do you think?