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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Conn chapter.

As you probably already know, a vegetarian is someone who does not consume any meat or fish products. That’s it. Vegetarian does not mean pretentious, judgmental animal-lover. Vegetarian does not mean bland, picky eater.

A substantial amount of the population is vegetarian, and they all have their different reasons. Some people are vegetarian for cultural reasons. Others follow the diet because of environmental concerns. Vegetarians should always be respected because you have no idea why they are doing it. More importantly, it has nothing to with their personal character.

For all you vegetarianism skeptics out there, or if you’re considering trying out the vegetarian lifestyle, read on for some important considerations below.

you have to Do it for the right reasons

Many people look at the vegetarian diet as a way to lose weight. On this diet, you can lose, gain, or maintain weight. Vegetarianism in itself in no way guarantees weight loss. A lot of times people turn to the vegetarian diet for weight loss, starve themselves, get sick, and never try vegetarianism again.

This approach leads to a misrepresentation of the vegetarian lifestyle. Vegetarianism should be implemented with your well-being in mind. Rather than looking at it as cutting meat and fish out of your diet, think of it as adding more diverse, plant-based foods into your diet. Always make sure to nourish your body.

Benefits of a vegetarian diet

According to Harvard Health, there is substantial evidence that vegetarianism improves your physical health.

For example, several studies have shown that vegetarians have lower rates of heart disease. Vegetarians have lower total and LDL cholesterol, indicative of longevity. Some studies have shown that vegetarians have a lower incidence of cancer than non-vegetarians. A vegetarian diet greatly decreases your risk of Type 2 Diabetes. Lastly, a recent study even shows that vegetarians have a lower incidence of dementia.

Following a vegetarian diet has been proven to decrease suffering due to ill health. Those who are genetically at higher risk of chronic disease might especially consider using the vegetarian lifestyle to decrease their likelihood of malady.

“Where Do you get your protein?”

The infamous question that is asked to every vegetarian: “Where do you get your protein?” If you do decide to go vegetarian and have to inform your meat-eating family and friends, you will inevitably be asked this question. The answer is simple: there are so many sources of protein that do not come from animals. Eggs, dairy products, seitan, tofu, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, plant-based protein powders, and nutritional yeast, just to name a few.

Some might argue that animal protein is better because some plant proteins are incomplete, meaning that they do not contain all nine essential amino acids that our bodies cannot synthesize. However, there are plenty of vegetarian complete protein sources, such as seitan, chia seeds, and soy. Furthermore, there is no one amino acid that plants do not contain. Eating plant protein from various sources can ensure that you are getting “complete protein.”

Furthermore, it has been confirmed that high intake of animal protein leads to bone reabsorption, which could lead to decreased bone density. This is especially a concern for women looking to prevent osteoporosis later in life. In particular, post-menopausal women that have high animal protein intake and low plant protein intake have greatly increased bone loss and hip fracture risk.

Nutritional Deficiencies

Aside from protein, there are a few nutritional deficiencies to consider when going vegetarian.

Vitamin B12 is one of the most commonly discussed micronutrients for vegetarians. Vitamin B12 generally comes from animal sources. However, cruelty-free vitamin B12 can be consumed through fortified foods. Breakfast cereals, soy and rice products, meat substitutes, and nutritional yeast can all be fortified with vitamin B12. If all else fails, there are plenty of vegetarian B12 supplements.

Omega-3 fatty acids are also a concern for vegetarians. In particular, DHA is an Omega-3 fatty acid that is mostly found in animal products. However, it is also present in eggs. If eggs are not your thing, there are vegetarian supplements out there for Omega-3 fatty acids including DHA.

Final Thoughts

If you are now considering trying vegetarianism, I encourage you to explore it. You don’t need a reason to be vegetarian, and you sure as heck should not be afraid to be judged for it. Once you start, be sure to send this article to the first person that calls you crazy. 😊

Hi! My Name is Katelynn Horvath and I am a Sophomore Chemical Engineering Major at the University of Connecticut on the Storrs Campus.