According to Ballundar et al (2006:139), Vegetarianism can be defined as eating food excluding meat and other animal products except milk. It is a trend of not including meat and other animal products in the diet. The individuals who do not eat meat are call vegetarians and the persons who eat meat are called non-vegetarians. The trend of vegetarianism has roots in the religious philosophy. Most religions are thought to believe in vegetarianism and strictly prohibit non-vegetarian food. As per the religious leaders of Jainism, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc non-vegetarian food involves the innocent and brutal killings of animals and hence this type of food shouldn't be permitted. On the contrary, some major religions like Christianity, Islam and Judaism argue that God has created human beings and made them in such a way that they can eat both animal and non-animal products (Naik, 2008).
There is a difference of opinion in Medical and Scientific world also. Although most of the doctors and bio-scientists believe that vegetarianism has not any serious disadvantage however some of them say that it leads to malnutrition. The question has always been an issue of conflict and concern within doctors, nutritionists and religious leaders. It is widely believed that vegetarianism has not any major disadvantage. It doesn't involve any brutality towards animals so it is considered to be the best form of nutrition.
Analysis and Evaluation:
Most of the philosophers, scientists, nutritionists, doctors, etc believe that vegetarianism has not major disadvantages; it is due to the fact that several major advantages are attributed to this form of eating with little disadvantages. These advantages include healthy living, healthy environment and peaceful world (Zaveri, 2008). Following are some of the advantages attributed to vegetarian food habit:
Verma and Pandey (2007:127) say that vegetarian food is rich in fibre. It constitutes the roughage material of the body. According to Richards (eHow Online) roughage and dietary fibre can be used interchangeably and its main sources are fruits, vegetables and grains. It is important to the alimentary canal in following ways:
- It adds bulk to the food.
- It helps in improving digestion and acts as a sort of cleaning agent for the alimentary canal (digestive tube).
Source of Vitamins and Minerals:
According to a report (vegetableexpert.co.uk), it looks like alphabets from vitamin A to zinc, that each of these alphabets is present in vegetables. It indicates that almost all vitamins and minerals are extensively found in the vegetarian diet. Vegetables contain all the three types of vitamins i.e. Fat soluble, Water soluble and B-complex vitamins including minerals like Phosphorus, Magnesium, Calcium, Potassium, Iron, Zinc, etc which are necessary for the healthy functioning of human bio-system. Vegetables are considered the richest sources of almost all vitamins.
Source of Carbohydrates:
Vegetables are also considered a rich source of carbohydrates. According to a report (weightlossforall.com) the source of energy in vegetables is the carbohydrate content present in them. But the calories depend on the cooking method employed to cook them. Vegetables contain fewer calories as compared to non-vegetarian diet (Ballandur et al, 2006:231).
Many ecologists believe that vegetables help to protect our environment by protecting the animals. In many parts of the world, people use to kill animals for food including wildlife. For example, wild pigs, yak, zebra, deer, etc are killed and eaten in many parts of the world. If every person switches to vegetarian food these killings can be avoided and wildlife can be saved. (Gandu et al, 2005:134)
Vegetarian food-eating also helps to maintain a sort of ecological balance in the ecosystem i.e. even the domestic animals form a part of many food chains and food webs (Renold, 2004:31). If they are not killed it will help to help to keep food chains and webs in perfect order.
The Case of Peaceful World:
According to a speech of Zaveri (2008) supported by scientific evidences and facts of life, most of the violence and fuss in the world is due to the meat eating. The humans also imbibe the qualities of animals in them by eating them. He adds that the eating of wild animals will lead to destruction of peace. However, this argument lacks solid scientific evidence.
Protection from Diseases:
During the ancient times, consuming vegetarian food was considered strange and fashionable thing which was believed to have no concerns with health. But now many health organisations including American Dietetic Association have recognised the fact that adequate vegetarian food with a combination of fruits, nuts, grains and green leafy vegetables is nutritionally balanced and has many health benefits in the prevention and even curing of diseases. (vegetarian-nutrition.info)
According to vegetarian-nutrition.info, many scientists believe that the consumption of vegetarian diet with the avoidance of meat and high-fat animal products along with daily exercise leads to the lowering of blood pressure, cholesterol levels, calories, less heart diseases, less obesity, strokes, diabetes, cancer and mortality rate. According to Quinn (2005:234), consumption of salads rich in green leafy vegetables and fruits leads to the reduction of mortality rates.
Citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, etc are rich in vitamin C which helps to give us protection against infections.
Apart from having these advantages there are also some disadvantages of consuming vegetarian food only. These are as follows:
Although vegetarianism leads to healthy living, healthy environment yet it has many disadvantages also. According to a report of SYL Online, vegetarian food contains less proteins, calcium, vitamin B12, iron and zinc. Although vitamin b12 is found in cereals it is not an issue and can be considered as a part of vegetarian diet but meat is the major source of this vitamin so vegetarian diet may lead to deficiency. Vitamin D is also lacking in green leafy vegetables. It is mostly present in the animal products and soymilk. Non-vegetarian food like meat, chicken and fish are proved to contain more quantities of zinc and iron and animal products like yogurt, cheese, curd, etc contain very much amounts of calcium (SYL Online). These nutrients are not much abundant in the vegetarian food items. Vegetarian food is also believed to contain almost negligible amounts of proteins and other essential amino acids (Rao, 2007:237). Phosphorus is also abundant in the meat products with very little amount in the vegetarian food.
In spite of having various benefits, vegetarian food is not a good choice for wrestlers and body builders as they have a primary requirement of proteins and essential amino acids. Vegetarian food can also lead to anaemia because of the lack of sufficient carbohydrates and proteins. Vegetarian food also leads to bowel problems and due to the fact that a little of cholesterol and fat is necessary for the healthy living, it can't be called a balanced diet (Rao, 2007:278)
It can be concluded that there are disadvantages of having vegetarian food also. But the disadvantages are suppressed by the advantages of having it. If the vegetarian food is taken in adequate amounts, it ensures healthy living. Also the various nutrients lacking in vegetarian food can be got by having other alternatives instead of having non-vegetarian food e.g., Vitamin D can be obtained from sunlight instead of getting it from Cod liver oil. Also, the most nutrients are present in vegetarian food (may be in little quantities like zinc, vitamin B12, etc) but if planned properly it will meet the whole nutritional requirements for healthy living.
Vegetarian food also has more advantages than the disadvantages. A person can have a healthy living irrespective of having non-vegetarian leading to environmental advantages. So, it can be said that vegetarianism has no major disadvantages.
References and Bibliography:
Richard, R. (2005) List of Roughage Foods. eHow Online, Available at: http://www.ehow.com/list_5904563_list-roughage-foods.html Last accessed 20th May, 2010.
Anonymous. A Know Your Vitamins and Minerals. vegetableexpert.co.uk, Available at: http://www.vegetableexpert.co.uk/KnowYourVitaminsAndMinerals.html Last accessed 19th May, 2010.
Renold, T. (2004) Biological Sciences. 9th Ed. Jallandhar: S. Chand Publishing House
Ballundar et al. (2006) Eating Habits. 2nd Ed. New Delhi: Chinar Publishing House.
Gandu et al. (2004) Healthy Dietary Facts of India. Mumbai: Vikas Publishers Limited. P134- 237.
Naik, Z. and Zaveri, R. (2008) Is Non-Vegetarian Food Permitted or Prohibited to Human Beings (Part 1 to 30). youtube.com. Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KKZ6z307NZM Last Accessed: 20th May, 2010.
Anonymous. (2006) Advantages and Disadvantages of Being Vegetarian. buzzle.com, Available at: http://www.buzzle.com/articles/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-being-vegetarian.html Last accessed 21st May, 2010.
Anonymous. Health Benefits of Vegetarian Diets. vegetarian-nutrition.info, Available at: http://www.vegetarian-nutrition.info/updates/vegetarian_diets_health_benefits.php Last accessed 22nd May, 2010.
Gere, M. (2009) Carbohydrates in vegetables. weightlossforall.com, Available at: http://www.weightlossforall.com/carbohydrates-vegetables.htm Last accessed 24th May, 2010.
Rao, S. (2007) Biology in Human Welfare. 4th Ed. Jallandhar. S.Chand Publishers Limited. p278- 237.
Verma, P and Pandey, B. (2007) Biology. 6th Ed. Srinagar: Dal Inc Limited. p127.
Quinn, T. (2005). Nutritional Facts. Kaulalampur: Sikao Publications. p234-235.