The vegetarian diet is known for its ability to help you lose weight, but the question of whether or not it really has the ability to do so remains controversial. If you’re thinking about eating vegetarian foods in order to shed pounds, here are some of the pros and cons of this way of eating that you should consider before taking the plunge.
Pro: Cutting Out Meat Reduces Calorie Intake
As you might expect, cutting out meat has many nutritional benefits. In fact, according to David Katz, MD, Director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center, vegetarian diets are associated with lower body mass indexes and often better weight-loss outcomes than non-vegetarian diets. A 2009 study from Brown University found that healthy adults who ate less meat had significantly lower fasting insulin levels than those who ate more meat. This suggests that plant-based diets might improve blood sugar control in people who have Type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes.
Pro: Fruits, Vegetables, and Legumes are Nutritious
Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats such as olive oil are load with fiber. Fiber does your body good by improving bowel function, helping maintain an ideal weight, and lowering cholesterol. And fiber-rich foods often don’t contain much sodium or fat which helps keep your blood pressure in check too. This is especially important if you’re at risk for heart disease. If you want to muscles blaze by eating more fruits, vegetables, and legumes then adding some ground flaxseed or chia seeds to salads will help significantly increase your intake of both soluble (eaten) and insoluble (passed through) fiber.
Con: A Lack of Variety can be Boring
If you are a vegetarian, chances are you’re consuming less meat than your omnivorous friends. But that doesn’t mean your diet lacks variety; it just means it relies more heavily on nuts, beans, vegetables, fruit, and whole grains. By swapping out refined grains for whole grains (such as brown rice), or simply eliminating processed foods from your diet altogether—and adding in plenty of fresh produce you will still have more variety in your food choices than most omnivores get to enjoy. And don’t forget about learning to cook with tofu!
Con: Limited Food Choices can Lead to Binge Eating
While meat-free meals have plenty to offer vegetarians, eating strictly plant-based meals can get boring after a while. As long as your diet is full of healthy foods, it’s okay to enjoy meatless alternatives. But if you’re only eating vegetables and legumes from your diet, prepare yourself for some bingeing later
on down the road. It’s easy to eat well when your choices are limitless but when there are only so many things
you can eat, it can be tempting to overindulge in an attempt to meet your nutritional needs. And then no one wins!
Con: Without Meat, Protein is Limited
A vegetarian diet typically limits protein intake to 8-10% of total calories. For example, if you’re consuming 2,000 calories per day, that means no more than 160-200 calories should come from protein. As meat is one of our most satiating sources of protein—along with certain dairy products—vegetarians tend to struggle with feeling full. A 2003 study published in Appetite found that compared to non-vegetarians, vegetarians consumed more fiber and fruits (while their fiber intake was similar) but fewer servings of vegetables, grains, and dairy foods. This can make sticking to a vegetarian diet feel like an ongoing challenge; it might be hard to get enough protein without meat or feel like your favorite foods are limit by your diet choices.
Con: A Plant-Based Diet May be Costly
The vegetarian diet is healthy, no doubt about it. But it can be expensive to follow. Many vegetarians rely on soy products and fresh produce as staples. These foods aren’t cheap. A vegetarian diet requires that you take special care to eat nutrient-rich foods, which means more money spent at farmers’ markets, more dollars spent on vegetables from health food stores, and more dollars spent on wholesome vegan protein alternatives like beans or tofu instead of meat. While a well-planned vegetarian diet can yield Musclesblaze benefits, some people might find it too costly for their tastes.