Thinking about becoming vegetarian? Are you interested in the benefits of making the change to a meat-free diet?
Your motivation for becoming vegetarian might be an environmental one, or perhaps it is born out of animal welfare concerns.
Maybe you have heard claims of health benefits of a vegetarian diet or want to align your diet with religious beliefs.
Whatever your reasons, vegetarianism can bring a wide range of benefits.
What does it mean to be vegetarian?
A vegetarian diet is simply one that does not contain fish, meat or chicken.1
That also extends to related products such as seafood, gelatine or animal rennet as well as stock or fat made from animals.
Typical components of a vegetarian diet might include fruit and vegetables, grains, pulses, seeds, nuts, eggs and dairy products.
And whereas a vegan would not eat honey, as it is produced by bees, it would not normally be excluded from a vegetarian diet.
A vegetarian vs a vegan diet
There are obvious similarities between vegan and vegetarian diets, but just to be clear, we will be looking at the benefits of being vegetarian here.
But if you do want to find out more about a vegan diet and food, why not head on over to the Vegan section in our Health Hub. Otherwise, read on to find out about wide-ranging benefits of a meat and fish-free diet.
We will focus on some of the health benefits, but don’t forget that the benefits are also ecological and economical.
A vegetarian diet is cheaper
That’s right. Did you expect that eating vegetarian meals would cost you significantly less than one that contains meat or fish?
Perhaps surprisingly, there are financial benefits to eating a plant-based diet too.2
But it can make splitting the bill for a meal out with your non-veggie friends a little awkward sometimes!
The health benefits of a vegetarian diet
Let’s get one thing straight. Not all vegetarians are healthy! And an unbalanced vegetarian diet brings very little health benefits.
So keep general healthy eating habits in mind when working out what to eat.
The NHS Eat Well guidance highlights that vegetarians, just like everyone, need to make sure they:
- get at least five a day of those essential fruits and vegetables
- choose unsaturated fats over saturated ones
- include some dairy or dairy alternatives
- choose wholegrain starchy carbohydrates
- obtain some protein from sources such as eggs, pulses or beans
- drink plenty of fluids3
It can be difficult to remember to adhere to these fundamental principles of healthy heating when you are working out a new way of eating.
But when you look at vegetarian food choices, it is easy to see why eating a balanced vegetarian diet can help you exceed most guidelines for healthy eating, and your meals will be naturally high in fibre and saturated fat.4
Many people find that being vegetarian helps them maintain a healthy weight, and can help reduce the chance of some health conditions – as long as they are not eating greasy veggie burgers and chips, washed down with ice cream and wine for every meal!
There are several studies that have looked at the effects of a vegetarian diet on various health conditions, and while it is difficult to tease the data apart and be specific about what foods or habits benefit which health conditions, there is a positive correlation between health and vegetarianism versus an omnivorous diet.5
How do I get enough vegetarian or vegan protein?
Gone are the days where the vegetarian food was hard to find. Now there are whole aisles in supermarkets dedicated to veggie and vegan products.
You need not fear that your options are limited if you want to pick up a meat or fish equivalent nowadays.
Check out our range of vegan products. You will find that there is now a wide range of veggie and vegan cookbooks which are full of delicious recipe ideas to help you pack in the protein.
Find out more about vegetarian food that is high in protein.
The positive impact of vegan and vegetarian diets for the environment
Growing concerns around climate change, animal welfare and land use can impact on people’s food and diet choices.
Livestock causes more pollution than the world’s entire transport system, so a healthy shift to a vegetarian or vegan diet can and does make a difference when it comes to reducing carbon and other emissions.6
So, if you are thinking about your own health, and the health of our planet, choosing to go vegetarian can make a positive difference to both of these.
Last updated: 6 July 2021