Vegetarian vs Omnivores. The facts.

It’s a touchy subject for some but also a subject, we’re all a little guilty of not really knowing the facts. Vegetarianism is based on the idea of not eating meat at all, although some vegetarians include dairy, eggs, fish or even poultry. Whereas an omnivore will include both plant materials and animal foods, often red meat. Mmmm steak. I wonder which side we’re on? Humans are natural-born omnivores, but some people choose to become vegetarian for various reasons and there are absoluetly pros and cons to each diet.

Protein Differences

Because vegetarian diets will typically exclude most or all animal products, they are naturally lower in protein, especially complete proteins available through meat. The complete proteins we’re talking about contain all essential amino acids, the "building blocks" of protein. Most plant-based foods have some essential amino acids but not others, so vegetarians may need to combine plant-based protein foods, like legumes and grains or seeds, to get the essential amino acids that would have been available in meat, eggs and dairy.

Vitamins and Minerals

Vegetarian and omnivore diets can vary in their vitamin, mineral and fatty acid levels. For example, vitamin B-12 is generally found only in animal products, so supplementation is necessary in a vegan diet but not in an omnivorous diet. Vegetarians may also need to find alternative sources of iron, zinc, calcium and other nutrients found in meats and dairy products. Iron-rich vegan foods include beans, while some leafy greens, such as broccoli, bok choy and kale, offer calcium.

Good and Bad Fats

Omnivores may allow themselves a wide variety of foods, but both diets have their pros and cons. For example, trans fats and saturated fats, also known as the "bad" fats are present in some meats and dairy products can cause high cholesterol levels and lead to possible heart problems. Vegetable-rich diets, however, offer antioxidants and other health benefits, and "good" vegetable fats like olive oil can help protect the heart and the body in general.

Creating Healthy Diets

Whether you're pursuing an omnivore's diet or a vegetarian lifestyle, it's valuable to make vegetables and fruits the centre of your attention. Harvard's Healthy Eating Plate has a suggestion made up of eating at least 50% vegetables and fruits, preferably more vegetables than fruits. Complement that with about 25% whole grains and 25% healthy proteins. Top it off with a drizzle of healthy oils and lots of water for a great vegetarian or omnivorous diet.

 

Still unsure on what to go for? Livestrong.com has some great recommendations & research.

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