Disadvantages of Being a Vegetarian

There are many reasons to become a vegetarian, and as quite an evangelical bunch by and large it’s common to hear many of these. Reportedly vegetarianism can result in higher energy levels, better diets overall, a guilt-free conscience and depending on your religion approval from the powers that be.


However what you might not have heard so much about is the reasons not to become a vegetarian – which isn’t to say there aren’t any. In fact there are many drawbacks to vegetarianism that ensure you need to be certain of your choice and highly dedicated if it’s something you’re going to stick to. Being well educated before you make your decision can help a great deal, and if you still decide to go vegetarian, or indeed already are vegetarian, then it can also help you to understand the negative aspects so that you can counter them as best as possible. Don’t make the mistake of blindly following and of kidding yourself into believing there are no downsides.


Health Issues


First of all let’s look at the most pressing matter – health issues. Many people will become vegetarian because they believe it is the healthy option and have heard that it can aid digestion and increase energy. While reports suggest this might be the case (and fat indeed does take the longest to digest), there are also many health drawbacks – and possibly more drawbacks than benefits. Here we will look at them.


Protein


First and foremost if you become vegetarian you will simply eat less protein. This is a big deal because we need protein in our diets. Protein is literally what makes up the building blocks of our body and essentially all we do when we eat meat is to recycle the flesh and to use it to reconstruct our own.


Now if you mention this to a signed up member of the vegetarian party then they will tell you that you can still get protein in your diet. This is true no doubt – from eggs for one if you aren’t vegan, from milk and from plants and vegetables. Yes things like beans and broccoli do contain protein and soya beans in fact contain more lean protein than many sources of meat. So what’s the problem?


First of all, you can’t survive on soya beans and eggs. If you did you’d have bad wind and a biotin deficiency to name but two issues. More to the point though, even if you did – this wouldn’t be a very varied diet of protein. And the protein in vegetables and plants doesn’t have the same amino acid profile and simply isn’t bio-available enough to be of any use. Yes it’s there, but our body is not able to use it as effectively as protein from meat. Protein and amino acids are actually very complicated matters and for the meat to be usable for our bodies it needs to be as close to the way we are going to use it as possible.


For our body to get the maximum benefit of amino acids we need to have all of the amino acids in our diet at some point (only eggs contain them all). At the same time for particular sources of protein to be useful they need to contain the right balance of IAAs and DAAs (indispensable and dispensable amino acids respectively). Too many DAAs compared to the IAAs, and the good protein becomes lost like a needle in a haystack so your body can’t make use of them. Likewise protein from animals is in the form of ‘BCAAs’ – that means ‘branched chain amino acids’ and this is because the proteins are connected in a way that is useful and that is close to the necessary construction for muscle and other tissue. This makes perfect sense when you think about it – you eat meat and it’s already almost in ‘human’ form (in that humans are made from meat). You eat a plant and that’s a very different protein and this means it takes a lot of effort for our body to convert it from plant to human. A lot is lost along the way and this results in a worse quality of tissue. Put simply if you have tuna, pork, mushrooms, eggs, cheese, beef and chicken you are going to get amino acids in every configuration possible and this gives our body a lot to work with. Cut over half of those sources out and suddenly we will start to struggle to find the raw materials.


Lack of protein in our diet to an adequate degree and in the right form then means we are slower to heal wounds, our skin looks more dull and less healthy, we struggle to develop muscle tissue and become weaker and our digestion and cognitive function suffers (enzymes such as digestive enzymes come from amino acids too). Vegetarians will naturally eat more carbs to compensate for the lost protein and this meanwhile will likely lead to weight gain.


Ask yourself this – competitive bodybuilders and athletes who will do anything to build muscle have the choice of whey protein or soy protein which comes from animals (milk) and soy bean respectively. Unless they are vegetarian they will 100% choose whey simply because it is a more useful form of protein.


Oils


But protein isn’t all we get from meat. For instance this is also a great source of oils and fats, and while we’re largely told to avoid fat in high quantities getting at least some is actually crucial to our diet. Not only is it important for our skin, hair and joints, but it also helps us to break down and utilize protein. Essential fatty acids such as omega 3 fatty acid are useful for our brain function too and for preventing the damage caused by free radicals which cause cancer. As long as you’re not vegan though you can get fatty acids from fish.


Vitamin B12


At the same time we also get vitamin B12 from meat and this is the only source of it other than dirt in the ground. This demonstrates the dangers of ‘denying’ the negative aspects of vegetarianism – if you don’t acknowledge the problem or research potential issues then you won’t think to supplement your diet with B12.


B12 is actually a crucial substance and deficiency can cause serious problems such as nerve damage, low energy and problems utilizing calcium which can lead to osteoporosis. B12 is also crucial for brain damage and some theories state that we may have even become omnivorous in order to help develop our brain function. While it is possible to get B12 through fortified sources, this simply isn’t as beneficial as getting it naturally as again it isn’t as bio-available. By supplementing your diet with B12, fatty acids and BCAAs you can almost counter the negative side effects of vegetarianism on your health, but you will be spending a lot of money in order to do so and popping a lot of pills.


Lifestyle


Of course there are other issues surrounding vegetarianism that don’t relate to health, and even the most ardent fan of vegetarian diets has to admit that it’s simply easier to be omnivorous. If you go around a friend’s house as a vegetarian then immediately you limit what they can cook and they are forced to go out and buy special ingredients to be able to host you. At the same time if you eat out a restaurant you drastically limit your options to those vegetarian dishes (sometimes there will only be one, or in rare cases none at all).


In theory being vegetarian means that you will improve your diet as it makes many forms of fast food off limits and as it means you get a lot less saturated fat. However in practice this isn’t quite true as if you are hungry you can no longer enjoy a piece of ham or some leftover chicken. Instead you are either going to have to prepare something made from vegetables or you will find yourself snacking on crisps and on buttered bread either of which are unhealthy. Similarly if you find yourself looking for a snack on the train, as a vegetarian the only options are often things like cheese ploughman’s which again is a lot less healthy than something with meat.


Finally you also of course miss out on a lot of food and a lot of experiences. Most vegetarians will admit to missing meat sometimes, and particularly bacon. When all your friends are eating bacon butties and you are forced to have a salad this can be a bit painful. Likewise though you also miss out on many other foods you wouldn’t even realize weren’t vegetarian. Many sweets for instance use animal fat and meat to give them their consistency. Likewise many meals are prepared using animal fat to cook them in. Without highly strict research and regulation most vegetarians will likely end up eating something that has come into contact with meat every now and then as it is so ubiquitous. And when you find that you can’t sample a dish from another culture, or the food your partner has proudly missed then you are indeed missing out on an experience.

31 comments

  1. Ravi Reply
    February 28, 2011 at 8:19 am

    Only mentions protein which is actually the least of the problems becuase protein can be obtained from MANY other sources as well as fake meat….. really the problem is iron and B12… it seems like this article was thrown together with minimal facts!

  2. Iris Reply
    October 8, 2011 at 5:38 am

    What is mentioned in this article is Veganism. Veganism is not eating any meat, dairy or eggs. That means no cake on you birthday, no milk etc. Being a vegetarian you can still eat everything else except meat and fish. That is all.

    • Sophia Reply
      March 25, 2019 at 6:15 pm

      Actually there are different kinds of vegetarians like lacto vegetarians and ovo vegetarians.

  3. Ron Reply
    May 10, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    When you talk about snacking on some leftover chicken, that's how you get food poisoning.

    And to be a vegetarian and have a snack isn't that hard, you don't have to eat buttered bread or crisps, it's called fruit, and it doesn't take long to make a salad.

    Use a little common sense next time.

  4. Peter Reply
    May 20, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    I appreciated your article, although it seemed to get disturbingly partisan quite quickly. I think that most vegetarians are aware that they won't be eating much bacon.

  5. Stefan Reply
    September 19, 2012 at 6:39 am

    I cannot believe that this article is on a health guidance website. It is so biased and full of flaws, I wouldn't know where to begin criticizing it.

  6. Tari Reply
    October 17, 2012 at 3:27 am

    This information was quite useful and helped me a lot : )

  7. GH Reply
    November 1, 2012 at 8:11 pm

    Misinformed… you can get all of the necessary amino acids from vegetables and sprouted foods in higher quality and with higher bio availability than from animal products.

  8. minz Reply
    November 2, 2012 at 11:54 am

    I found this article very useful with my school speech about vegetarians. Thank you!

  9. Andy Reply
    January 1, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    Rather than focussing on facts the article seems to be trying to convince people of why you should not be a vegetarian.

  10. Tyler Reply
    February 16, 2013 at 4:25 am

    This is outright lies. I've been vegan for over 20 years. I am very healthy and have an above average muscle mass. I lift weights 5 days a week and work a physical demanding job. I take it this site is paid for by the meat and dairy industry. It was good for laugh.

  11. Nat Reply
    February 27, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    Vegetarians do not eat fish!

    Vegans do not drink milk!

    Your argument seems to simply run along the lines of "succumbing to temptation is great!" Just because you can't be arsed to buy healthy vegetarian and vegan food does not mean it is a bad idea. If you eat meat, you cannot complain if you are eaten yourself.

  12. Forest Reply
    January 9, 2014 at 8:46 am

    This website is actually quite accurate. Proteins produced in real meat and can be different than the protein produced in fruit or vegetables. Just because there is proteins produced in every meat and vegetable doesn't mean it is the same. Our body needs many things including some fat because fat is full of proteins, amino acids, and carbs that our body needs to function properly.

  13. Sonic Reply
    October 9, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    This article was very helpful. Being a vegetarian myself, this easily lets me know the bad things about what I've gotten into. Thanks!

  14. em Reply
    November 30, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    Could be kid friendlier… kind of confusing!

  15. JTBlue Reply
    June 14, 2014 at 11:17 am

    I'm seriously considering becoming a vegetarian, but the virtuous religiosity by so many of them is an annoying turnoff. So you don't agree with Ladok? Fine, no need to be insulting. Simply give the counter arguments. If you can.

  16. Kets Reply
    July 7, 2014 at 10:18 am

    I disagree with most of the comment below. This article has helped me a lot with an essay I had to write whether vegetarianism is a healthier lifestyle or not. Thanks so much for your help!

  17. subduedjoy Reply
    December 6, 2014 at 12:19 am

    You need to do your research. You are confusing the term vegetarian with pescatarian and vegan.

    "First of all, you can't survive on soya beans and eggs. If you did you'd have bad wind and a biotin deficiency to name but two issues." Eggs are high in biotin.

    "As long as you're not vegan though you can get fatty acids from fish." Vegetarians do not eat fish. The difference between being a vegetarian and a vegan has to do with products that animals produce. Vegetarians eat eggs, honey, milk, butter, and cheese. Vegans do not. Pescatarians eat fish. Pescatarians are not vegetarians.

    "As long as you're not vegan though you can get fatty acids from fish." You can get omega-3 from dairy and eggs from grass-fed cows, canola oil, some nuts/seeds, beans, and wild rice. I would add soy to the list, but soy is also high in omega-6.

    "And the protein in vegetables and plants doesn't have the same amino acid profile and simply isn't bio-available enough to be of any use." Soy is a complete protein and is bio-available enough to be of use. I was a vegetarian for more than 10 years. I had a lot of energy, exercised, and was very fit during that time. I have never had an issue with not getting enough protein in my diet when I was a vegetarian. My problem was that I was not getting enough iron and B12 even though I was taking supplements. I have Ulcerative Colitis and lose a lot of blood as a result. Iron and B12 supplements were simply not enough for me. So I'm now a pescatarian.

    "At the same time we also get vitamin B12 from meat and this is the only source of it other than dirt in the ground." Eggs and diary are high in B12. They just don't have as much B12 as meat. Beans and dark-leafy vegetables are high in iron. The problem is that the iron contained in non-meats is harder to absorb than that contained in meat.

    "Unless they are vegetarian they will 100% choose whey simply because it is a more useful form of protein." Whey is the watery part of milk that remains after the formation of curds. Vegetarians can have whey. It's vegans who don't consume whey.

    "It's simply easier to be omnivorous." It's easier to be omnivorous when I'm eating at friends' and families' homes who are omnivorous because they don't provide enough non-meat options. For some reason, they all make salads, thinking vegetarians eat salad. I have Ulcerative Colitis. I cannot eat raw vegetables. Personally, I never liked meat even before I knew I was eating animals. My mom wasn't much of a cook. She would make hotdogs, hamburgers, and liverwurst sandwiches. My dad would cook eggs and bacon on Sundays. I found beef hard to chew, and I didn't like hotdogs, liverwurst, and bacon. So, for the most part, I grew up making myself peanut butter sandwiches. I do like the taste of chicken and fish. But we didn't have these when I was growing up. We lived inland, and farming chickens for their meat is a relatively new concept. It wasn't sold in stores like it is today. Plus, my mom doesn't like fish; so that could be another reason we didn't have fish.

    "You also of course miss out on a lot of food and a lot of experiences." I could say the same thing to omnivorous whose diet is practically all meat. When was the last time you had a nut burger, veggie burger, masala spinach, samosa chaat, onion pancake, veggie curry soup, carrot soup, pickled radish, cucumber pickles, rice cakes, veggie dumplings, spicy stir-fried tofu, squash pancakes, cashew butter, sweet red bean soup, candid sweet potatoes…

    "If you are hungry you can no longer enjoy a piece of ham or some leftover chicken. Instead you are either going to have to prepare something made from vegetables or you will find yourself snacking on crisps and on buttered bread either of which are unhealthy." What about nut butters? They go with practically everything, including bananas, bread, rice cakes…

    "When all your friends are eating bacon butties and you are forced to have a salad this can be a bit painful." I don't like bacon, and I can't eat salad due to the fact that I have Ulcerative Colitis. Why do omnivorous think vegetarians only eat salad?

    "Similarly if you find yourself looking for a snack on the train, as a vegetarian the only options are often things like cheese ploughman’s which again is a lot less healthy than something with meat." How are you going to cook your meat on a train?

    "Many sweets for instance use animal fat and meat to give them their consistency." No they don't. They contain sugar and corn syrup.

    "Likewise many meals are prepared using animal fat to cook them in." Most places use trans fatty vegetable oils. They aren't healthy, but they are cheaper.

    "And when you find that you can't sample a dish from another culture, or the food your partner has proudly missed then you are indeed missing out on an experience." Having lived abroad, I found this one funny. I find that Chinese and Indian foods have way more options when it comes to vegetarian dishes than the typical American diet.

  18. Caroline Reply
    February 3, 2015 at 11:55 am

    This article is completely misinformed and misleading. This amount of bias cannot lead anybody to a clear, factual decision! Also, if one believes in and supports vegetarianism, I think they are willing to "inconvenience" their friends. Ridiculous!

  19. Sam Reply
    May 6, 2015 at 4:45 pm

    yesss, helped my homework :]

  20. Reg Reply
    June 10, 2015 at 1:37 pm

    Well explained

  21. ROBERT WILLIAMS Reply
    July 9, 2015 at 8:25 pm

    I've lost 100lbs. in last 8mos. eating the Paleo Diet so I know it's carbs that kill us and we all need to eat more protein. The USDA food pyramid is bunk.

  22. Amz Reply
    September 14, 2015 at 11:56 am

    Totally awesome

  23. Shannon Reply
    February 11, 2016 at 11:50 am

    I've been experiencing several negative side effects of vegetarianism listed above. I've been a vegetarian for several years, and thought it would help me lead a healthy life style. I eat fruit, grains, vegetables, nuts, etc. but am suffering, and have noticed an extreme deterioration in my skin. This article has confirmed many of my fears based on my diet. I am beginning the process of adding meat back into it, and am seeing a doctor in a month. Don't dismiss this article so quickly. It may have a bit of a "partisan" tone, but those feelings of missing out at social events are legitimate at times, and I truly believe I've suffered adverse health effects, even while incorporating as many health options as I could into my diet. Maybe the vegetarian diet just doesn't work for everyone.

  24. Mario Reply
    February 29, 2016 at 4:16 pm

    This article was great and it is going to be useful for my English (erwc) paper for high school!

  25. Anna Reply
    March 8, 2016 at 5:33 pm

    First of all nobody has ever died from a lack of protein, and the highest sources of proteins are from the primary source, plants. The only way animals get protein is from eating plants, so why get a secondary source of protein. Also dairy creates an incredibly acidic environment in your body, and you know what thrives in acidic environments, cancer hormones. I am not entirely sure where any of this information comes from but the facts are clear.

    • GEORGIE Reply
      February 18, 2019 at 1:36 pm

      READING THIS IT SOUNDS LIKE YOUR SHOUTING AND THE WAY YOU SAID CANCER HORMONES ACTUALLY SOUNDS RLLY SAD I KNOW YOU WROTE THIS IN 2016 AND ITS 2019 BUT ITS HORRIBLE

  26. Kamryn Reply
    March 23, 2016 at 12:11 pm

    This is so inaccurate. Vegetarians and vegans get plenty of protein (beans, cereals, nuts) and oils/fats (avocado, nuts, flaxseed, chia seeds). B12 is not only a vegetarian/vegan issue people that eat meat are also deficient in B12. 40% people living in the US are B12 deficient and vegetarians/vegans don't even make up half of that percentage combined. Lifestyle is easier than people think there are a lot of vegetarian/vegan restaurants out there, and there more and more restaurants popping up. I am not saying that when you go out you have to go specifically to a vegetarian/ vegan restaurant. More restaurants have vegan/vegetarian options now since more and more people are becoming vegan/vegetarian. Some restaurants even have a section on the menu for vegan/vegetarian options, and if they don't show it on the menu all you have to do is ask. As for going to a friend's house who isn't vegan/vegetarian you can make and bring a few of your own delicious dishes to share with everyone. Being a vegan or vegetarian is not hard at all. It is better for the world, for your health, and for the animals.

  27. Sophie Reply
    May 27, 2016 at 6:48 am

    The article states that unless you are vegan you can consume essential oils from eating fish, since when did vegetarians eat fish? That is known as pescatarianism. Obviously not a lot of research has been done. In my view, the occasional lack of energy from not planning your vegetarian or vegan diet beats high cholesterol, bowel cancer ect any day!

  28. Khang Nguyen Reply
    July 8, 2016 at 8:54 pm

    I found this article quite helpful but in some points, it is objective. However, thank you for your given information.

  29. Marcus Reply
    August 18, 2016 at 2:54 pm

    Too many of these comments antagonize the publisher of this article. This article literally starts off with "there are many reasons to become a vegetarian." It might seem vindictive in a sense towards vegetarians and vegans but all it says is to be aware of the implications of vegetarianism before you make the decision.

    Another issue is the protein dilemma. Vegetarians keep saying that one can find all the necessary proteins from other sources and this article literally says that that is true but the structure of the proteins will be different in a way that is inefficient and metabolically costly for the human body.

    Most of the negative comments have obviously come from vegetarians and this obviously renders the argument that this article is biased moot. Like any debate, presented points are most likely to favor one side. Duh!

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