Vegetarian vs Non-Vegetarian Diet | Which is Better?

This debate won’t end, really. People literally make grouping as if it were a community. The place where I spent most of my childhood contained countless vegetarians and they would negatively judge those who used to eat meat. Let alone meat, they wouldn’t even dine with those who brought eggs for lunch or dinner at schools, colleges, or workplaces; and would bully them instead. Both parties judge each other and want to prove their point to be right. We cannot take sides who is better because we all get biased.

Most people have been following the diet that they were given since they were minors. Children begin to develop the taste of the kind of food they eat and that is there when they grow old. They don’t understand the animal cruelty at that tender age. Contrary to meat eaters, vegetarians become more empathetic for animals with time. There are very few who switch later in their adulthood.

I have noticed many flesh-eaters who cannot take even a bite of animal product if we show them the slaughterhouses where animals are tortured to death right in front of them; and they are absolutely fine when there are served with meat while they dine without witnessing the animals being butchered.

I prefer not to debate on the subject of what ought to be considered as unkindness and what’s not because this is long and contains lots of disagreements. So, let’s focus on practical aspects.

First and foremost, we need to know what falls under “non-vegetarian” and “vegetarian”.

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What does a non-veg diet actually mean?

This is no-brainer I guess. Anything that was alive before being served to your plate and had really felt the pain through a series of torture, comes under the non-veg diet. This includes beef, mutton, seafood, and poultry.

What comes under vegetarian diet?

Types of vegetarians | Understand the difference

If somebody says they are vegetarians, others perceive it differently. Most vegetarians are asked whether they consume eggs or not which may hold true for one person and false for another; if someone doesn’t ask about the food preferences, the other party makes assumptions. Depending on the kinds of foods one might choose, there are 4 major types of vegetarians –

  1. Lacto-vegetarians: These people consume all types of dairy products but no eggs.
  2. Ovo-vegetarians: They prefer eggs but no dairy. Usually they are those who are lactose intolerant.
  3. Lacto-ovo-vegetarians: This is the most common type of vegetarianism. People falling under this category take both kinds of animal byproducts, i.e. dairy and eggs.
  4. Vegans: These people prefer no byproducts of animals and that contains both dairy and eggs, farming of which is equally harsh as is the meat industry. Further, they also refuse to use anything that is directly or indirectly associated with animals, such as products (shampoos, tooth pastes, shaving creams, cosmetics, etc.) that are tested on animals, using leather jackets/shoes, etc.

Veg, non-veg, and fish!

Some restaurants actually have three categories to go for in their menu. There are people who would always get confused what we actually mean by the term “vegetarian”. Many of them do not even consider fish as non-veg. Once, a family member of my husband cooked fish for me because we told her to prepare veg dish while she invited us over for lunch. There was nothing I could eat, except porched eggs that she prepared in a hurry! What if I wasn’t into eggs either?

But, what about mushrooms?

Most vegetarians and vegans eat mushrooms because biologically mushrooms come under the family of fungi. Vegans also consume similar foods such as yeast. The logic is, mushrooms and yeasts don’t have brains and central nervous system, so these don’t feel the pain if taken out.

The concept of vegan is simple – It should not include merciless slaughters. Mushroom doesn’t fit into that obviously!

The Biology

Now let’s discuss about the biology. Humans have canine teeth but these are not as sharp as carnivores like lions, dogs, cats, leopards, hynah, wolves, and so on. Carnivorous animals also have the habit to chew faster and swallow the animal they hunt or feed on already dead animal. Their jawline cannot move side to side, but just up and down. Their stomach needs more acid to break their food down.

Herbivorous animals can move their jaws in both directions to make sure that the fruits and vegetables they consume are properly chewed to make digestion easier. The stomach too needs lesser acids.

Besides that, the intestines are too long in herbivores compared to carnivores because plant-based products take longer to digest (allowing fiber to break down better, absorbing nutrients for good) in comparison with meat products. The carnivorous living beings require to expel out what they’ve eaten at a faster rate, and so, their intestines are shorter in length. If that is not there, the meat would rot inside them and make them sick.

In addition to this, our nails were never evolved to tear flesh apart like other meat-eating animals.

If you see dead animals on road, would you prefer to scrape their meat out and cook at home? Hell, no! Even the slightest thought sounds so gross! Our natural instinct never supports that.

Research says that issues like colon cancer, heart disease, and diabetes are predominant in meat-eaters compared to plant-eaters. In other words, we were never born or evolved to become meat eaters. Yet humans consider themselves as omnivorous because of their food habits they follow.

So, what did exactly insist our ancestors to grow habits similar to carnivorous or omnivorous? Keep reading to understand the evolution.

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The Evolution

There are in fact lots of reasons why one might turn to eat the kind of food they weren’t supposed to consume. They migrated to different parts of the world and adapted to many things – climatic conditions, cultural or ethnic backgrounds, and availability, to name a few.

Those who have been living in very cold regions for generations need to eat animal products for survival as plant-based foods are in very scarce.

Likewise, those who reside near the coastal regions have developed the habit of seafood. Through researches, it is already proven that sea animals contain a wide range of nutrients that a human body requires. The fisheries, therefore, has its roots for centuries. There are wide range of medicines that contain ingredients like oyster shell (powdered), cod liver oil, etc. in both ayurvedic (mukta shukti bhasm in ayurvedic Calcium tablets, for instance) and allopathic medicines and are prescribed by doctors in case people suffer from severe nutritional deficiencies.

Land, crops, and water

A non-vegetarian, who isn’t knowledgeable enough would blame the vegetarians for deforestation and consider themselves as planet saviors. Oh wait! We get it about the food choices and tastes, but specifying false info just to prove a point isn’t right in my opinion. So, let’s take a more look into the real facts.

Before getting slaughtered, the animals and birds are fed thoroughly so that their meat contains enough of nutrients. The crops required for grass-fed animals is huge. Moreover, the water is also required while the meat is processed, and to add to this, land/space should be in abundance to carry all tasks in large scale.

But wait! Are we really vegetarians if we claim to be?

Lots of people claim to be pure vegetarians and they really aren’t. Do they? Let’s take a look into some facts on that matter.

Okay, if you think that you buy only those packets and containers that are labeled with green dot, think again as this does not indicate cruelty-free foods, first of all. In fact, ingredients that say words that sound to us total scientific are more often doubtful. What I mean to say is, most food colorings, artificial flavours, etc. are usually labeled using codes.

For instance, gelatin (E441), bone phosphate (E542), hairs/feathers (E910, E920, E921), red food coloring from crushed beetles (E120) that most of us don’t bother. This is just a glimpse of what I’ve mentioned to give you an idea. After all, why would one want to know the whole history of how you-name-it was manufactured, and what “natural” or “nature identical” colors and flavours actually mean?

I think you are also familiar with gelatin that is used in many desserts for enhanced looks and taste. It is derived from animal skin/ligaments, which is, of course, not a vegetarian thing. These days, it is clearly stated in the packet itself, but wait! What about those pastries that you might consume in a bakery? The same gelatin is used in the making of medicinal capsules’ shell as well. I had witnessed people of older generation to open those shells and consume the inside ingredients directly. They would throw those shells leaving me clueless back then.

Vegetarianism helps in weight loss!

Well I may sound a little bias but what to do, everyone else is! Being a non-meat eater myself, I cannot help but advocate the benefits of a vegetarian diet.

There are celebrities who lost several pounds due to veg diet, and eventually, adopted that diet pattern for the rest of their life. For example, Bollywood actress Kareena Kapoor.

The leafy greens and fruits help a lot to reduce extra pounds of weight. But beware of other kinds of vegetarian food items that actually help adding more body mass, such as dairy products and potatoes. If a person keeps on consuming them then these will do more harm than good. So, always keep in mind about having the right foods if you are switching from non-veg to veg even for a short while.

One may complain that a pure vegetarian diet is extremely boring to which I don’t agree. If you are concerned about the taste, you can use your cooking skills with many different varieties of fruits and vegetables. Internet will be there for you to learn what you require.

There is nothing difficult to prepare a usual gravy (just like you would do for a meat) and add non-meat products such as mushrooms, tofu, cottage cheese, soy beans, kidney beans, and so on. You may also blend a fruit or combination of fruits with milk or yogurt or soy/almond milk to come up with very healthy and colorful smoothies and milk shakes.

Our mindset plays a huge role in what we prefer to eat. If you want to believe that vegetables are not delicious then you will never like to eat them. Start having mindful eating and enjoy every bite that enters your mouth. Of course, if you prepare it yourself it will be appetizing.

Vegetarianism for long life

As stated before, a typical non-veg person is likely to grow many diseases and disorders, their life expectancy is low compared to veg people. You will still find a handful of folks who eat meat every single day leading a disease-free (long) life AND a veggie who dies at a very young age. This is because not only diet but also there are other factors, such as genetics, age, ongoing disease/disorders/medications, and other habits (smoking, drinking, drugs, exercise) that decide how healthy a person may remain.

The term “likely” does not enclose ALL people, since there are exceptions, yet the fact is proven through observations and experiments that diet DOES matter.

Lots of spiritual leaders advocate pure vegetarian diet. The benefits listed are all related to mind, body, and soul that need to be pure. On the contrary, if someone starts adapting to spiritual path, they gradually stop eating any kind of meat or junk that is unhealthy, and this comes from within without any external guidance or push.

Flexitarian or Semi-Vegetarian

Oh! Is it even a term? Yes, it is. In fact, lots of Indians practice this due to religious reasons.

It refers to plant-based diet most of the times and occasional consumption of meat. In my opinion, this is one of the best diets one could follow. Since stopping non-veg entirely isn’t an option for most meat-eaters. If somebody is health conscious, that person would definitely love to follow this regime.

The bottom line

I started eating eggs when I was 5 year old because I was getting weaker due to malaria every year in my childhood. It was recommended by the doctor himself. Eggs are known for providing energy. They have good amount of healthy fats and proteins. They also help feeling fuller for longer and we don’t feel hungry again that soon. I did develop acne but that wasn’t a major concern.

Years later, that is, the present day, I required to replenish my Vitamin B12 because the deficiency had caused me severe muscle cramps particularly on calf and toe regions that lasted for many minutes and I couldn’t move that body part which was affected. I tried medicinal pills but that didn’t help, probably because tablets and capsules don’t contain nutrients that are readily digestible.

I did a lot of research on this to find out a good vegetarian solution to replenish my Vitamin B12 and found on the Internet that Seaweeds are actually good sources. But these are not available in my area but only online and the cost is too high to afford if we have to buy them quite regularly.

I had to start eating clams. These are the types of sea food that have the most B12 Vitamins. The count is highest among all food sources, vegetarian and non-vegetarian combined. When I found out that I simply need to consume them once in a month I went for it. And the results are amazing. My cramps actually started to diminish. Hence, I continued this habit.

But guess what! I stopped consuming eggs because I started developing severe allergies. Yes, despite eating them right from my childhood it happened, perhaps because the place where I resided back then was different (northern India) than I live today (southern India). What I personally feel is, the climatic condition may influence what our bodies allow.

The bottom line is, everyone eats as per their needs, and they will keep on convincing the rest of the population about their point of view.

I don’t know in which category I perfectly fit in, yet I still prefer to be called as a veggie to this day. While finding out a good restaurant that suit my needs was quite tricky a couple of years back, but at present, there are many. The struggle doesn’t end here. In weekends, sometimes the time isn’t right. Either it gets too late or too early, OR I become choosy to eat healthy foods instead of unnecessary junk, OR the dishes are costly and I do not have the right account balance.

It makes me wonder how vegans survive outside their houses, like while they travel or simply not in the state to cook due to illness or tiredness. Unless it is Israel, it’s very difficult. This country contains over a hundred thousand restaurants that prepare only vegan dishes as many people are turning vegans day by day. I am really eager to go there and try some!!

Sometimes I feel that a flesh-eater has easier access to food. But who cares! I still can’t add one more regular non-vegetarian in this already nasty world!

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