Health Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet: A Comprehensive Analysis

Categories: Veganism

"Havala defines a vegetarian as someone who avoids consuming meat, fish, poultry, or any by-products from these sources. Different types of vegetarians include Lacto Ovo vegetarians who exclude meat, fish, and poultry but still eat dairy products and eggs. Lacto vegetarians do not consume meat, fish, or poultry but may have dairy products and eggs. Vegans refrain from eating meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products along with other animal-derived items like wool, silk, leather,and nonfood products made with animal by-products.


Various vegetarian diets exist, from semi-vegetarians who decrease meat intake to Pesco Pollo vegetarians who exclude red meat but include chicken and fish. Despite being omnivores with teeth adapted for both meat and vegetables, humans do not need meat in their daily function. My paper focuses on a strict vegetarian diet that excludes all meat, fish, poultry, and by-products. Well-planned vegetarian diets can fulfill essential nutrient requirements just like diets containing meat.

The Vegetarian Sourcebook states that adopting a vegetarian diet can provide many health advantages.

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Although there are worries about lacking certain nutrients like vitamin B12, copper, iron, and zinc when removing meat from one's meals, studies show that vegetarians are typically in better health than non-vegetarians because they mostly eat plant-based foods.

Messina states that opting for a vegetarian diet can offer health advantages due to the availability of protein, iron, and b12 in many meatless alternatives. Vegetarians generally have reduced chances of developing illnesses like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and kidney disease. Furthermore, vegetarian diets tend to be low in fat, high in fiber, and packed with crucial vitamins and plant substances that provide protection.

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Research suggests that adhering to a vegetarian diet could potentially prevent 97 percent of coronary occlusions.

Regions with high meat consumption tend to have high rates of colon cancer, as well as other types of cancer such as breast, cervical, uterine, ovarian, prostate, and lung cancer. This trend is also seen in areas where meat-eating is rare (The Case for Vegetarianism). Protein is an essential nutrient necessary for the body's structural components like bones and muscles, as well as for producing enzymes and hormones crucial for life processes (Sizer&Whitney). All foods except fats contain protein.

Americans often consume twice the recommended daily amount of protein, mainly from animal products. This can lead to health problems such as elevated calcium excretion, high cholesterol levels, heart disease, and cancer. Vegetarians have access to a range of alternative protein sources including peanut butter, oatmeal, rice, black beans, pasta, vegetables, cheese, and fruits.

Vegetarians usually obtain a moderate protein intake from vegetables and fruits, which is advantageous for kidney health and lowering the risk of kidney stones and disease. Furthermore, fiber-rich foods assist in weight control by creating a sense of fullness without consuming excessive calories. Fiber also supports digestive health and can prevent conditions like colon cancer, high cholesterol, and obesity. Additionally, fiber helps regulate blood sugar levels.

According to Havala, dietary fiber is essential for eliminating cholesterol from the bloodstream to prevent atherosclerosis, while iron is vital for transporting oxygen in the blood. Both nutrients can be sourced from both animal and plant-based foods. Dietary fiber may only be partially digested or remain undigested by our bodies.

Iron is a crucial mineral found in all cells of the body, vital for carrying oxygen in red blood cells. It exists in two types - heme iron from meat, poultry, and fish which is easily absorbed, and nonheme iron from plant sources. Pairing meat with plant foods can boost iron absorption. Good sources of this mineral include whole or enriched breads, leafy greens, and certain dried fruits.

Nonheme iron, found in plants, is less easily absorbed than heme iron. Vitamin C can improve its absorption, and fruits and vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, cantaloupe, cauliflower, green peppers, honeydew melon,
kohlrabi,papaya,potatoes,strawberries,and tomatoes are rich sources of this enhancer (Havala). B12 is essential for cell division and deficiency symptoms appear in rapidly dividing red blood cells.

B12 is essential for the production of co-enzymes, important for cell synthesis and nerve cell maintenance. Havala states that the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) advises a daily consumption of 2 micrograms of B12, whereas the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends less than 1 milligram per day. B12 can only be produced by bacteria and is not made by plants or animals; however, plants can take in B12 from soil bacteria. Animal products are a dependable source of B12 as animals either consume contaminated foods or produce it in their intestines with the help of bacteria.

It is highly recommended that vegetarians and vegans take a supplement to prevent B12 deficiency, as they are at a greater risk. This deficiency can lead to various health issues such as anemias, nerve damage, inflammation of the tongue and mouth, irreversible nerve damage, and possibly the onset of dementia (Nutrition for life). Symptoms of deficiency may include tingling or numbness in the hands, fingers, or toes (Havala). It can take several years for deficiency to show up after stopping consumption of B12 food sources, and in some cases, it may not manifest for up to twenty years (Messina).

Various sources of vitamin B12 include milk (1 cup contains 1 milligram), eggs (1 large egg contains .56 micrograms), and vegetables grown in heavily fertilized night soil. The research paper indicates that vegetarians, who obtain most of their nutrients from plants, tend to have a healthier diet compared to meat eaters. This results in lower fat intake and decreased risk of health issues such as cancer, coronary artery disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, gallstones, and kidney stones.

Vegetarians may lack iron, zinc, protein, vitamin D, and B vitamins but can obtain these nutrients from plants and supplements. Opting to lower meat intake is advised for non-vegetarians as moderate consumption can reduce the risk of chronic illnesses associated with omnivorous diets. This project has enlightened me on the negative impact of meat on health.

Updated: Feb 21, 2024
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Health Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet: A Comprehensive Analysis. (2016, Sep 29). Retrieved from

Health Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet: A Comprehensive Analysis essay
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