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Today, vegetarian diets have gained extreme popularity all over the globe. These are preferred by a number of people throughout the world, and has been claimed to be a key to healthy life. Also, some organizations working for animal rights are strictly against eating meat, fish, or poultry. A vegetarian diet typically consists of whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. They are, no doubt, good for health, but have you ever thought whether vegetarian meals were complete? Can they fulfill all the nutritional requirements of the body? Well, there are certain advantages and disadvantages of being vegetarian. What are they? Let's find out!

Advantages
Vegetarian diet mainly includes grains, nuts, cereals, seeds, beans, vegetables, and fruits. Hence, it is rich in fiber, folate, and vitamin C. Vegetables and fruits provide vitamins and minerals, that are essential for a healthy body. Beans, tofu, and seeds are some good sources of proteins. Vegetables consist of phytochemicals, which prevent some chronic diseases. Green leafy vegetables are a rich source of antioxidants. Vegetables and fruits also provide natural sugars, beneficial enzymes, and trace elements.

It contains low amount of fats, cholesterol, and saturated fats. As a result, it minimizes the risk of weight gain. This, in turn, reducing the possibilities of developing the health problems caused by obesity. Vegetarian diet is also helpful for healthy weight loss. A vegetarian diet lowers the blood cholesterol levels and decreases the risk of various disorders such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart diseases, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, kidney diseases, gallstones, and cancer. Due to intake of high fiber diet, digestive health is improved. Vegetarianism protects you from certain meat related food-borne diseases such as bird flu, mad cow disease, intestinal parasites, etc.

Disadvantages
Although vegetarian diet provides all the essential nutrients, there are certain factors that we can get in more amounts from meat or fish. Vegetarian diet is found to be low in proteins, calcium, vitamin B12, iron, and zinc. Vitamin B12 is found in soy products, fortified cereals, and animal products in abundant amount. Soymilk, milk, and other dairy products are the rich sources of vitamin D. Meat, chicken, fish, and poultry contain more quantities of iron and zinc. Milk, cheese, and yogurt are excellent sources of calcium. These nutrients are not found in large quantities in the vegetarian diet. Meat is a rich source of proteins and contains all the essential amino acids required by the body. Phosphorus present in the meat is easily absorbed than that present in legumes and cereals.

Vegetarian diet is not recommended for bodybuilders, as they require a protein-rich diet, for the purpose of increasing muscle mass. A diet lacking in sufficient carbohydrates and proteins can lead to anemia. Bowel irregularities can be commonly seen among the vegetarians. If your diet is totally free from fats, then it's not good, because certain amounts of cholesterol and fat is necessary for the development of the nervous system and for normal body functioning.

Although there are certain disadvantages of a vegetarian diet, it definitely offers a number of health benefits. If you properly plan your diet, you can overcome the problem of nutrient deficiencies, and improve your physical fitness and overall health. After all, healthy eating is the key to healthy living.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a dietitian or nutritionist.