Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi

Why Vegetarian

Stephanie Mobley R.D.

The mighty T-Rex and the powerful Stegosaurus are two well known dinosaurs, but each one had drastically different diets. The T-Rex was a meat eater (carnivore) and the Stegosaurus was a plant eater (herbivore). But, do their diets have different nutrition considerations? Many Americans eat meat at almost every meal. While meat is a good source of protein (vital for tissue growth), plant-based sources of protein also provide nutrients and are naturally full of antioxidants and low in fat. And most Americans do not eat enough of them. Let’s look at the health benefits of plant-based proteins and various types of vegetarianism.

To start, here are the various types of vegetarianism and the definition of each:

Various Types Definition
  Lacto-vegetarian avoids animal products but includes dairy in their diet
  Lacto-ovo-vegetarian avoids animal products but includes dairy and eggs in their diet
  Vegan avoids all products from animals (this also includes things like honey since it comes from bees)
  Pescatarian avoids animal products but includes fish in their diet
  Flexitarian vegetarian most of the time but still eats meat on occasion

Each of these forms of vegetarianism have been proven to provide health benefits such as a healthy heart and lower body weight. In fact, research has shown that vegetarians weigh about 15 percent less than meat eaters and have 3-20 percent less body fat. Out of the different types of vegetarianism, a flexitarian is probably the most lenient while still getting some of the health benefits. A flexitiarian eats plant based proteins most of the time but still splurges on the occasional burger!

Now that we know there are benefits to eating more plants, let’s discuss plant-based sources of protein. Beans, nuts and whole grains are natural sources of plant-based protein. Adding these foods to salads, soups, casseroles or as a snack can help you consume the recommended amount of protein per day. Some of these include:

Food Protein
1/2 Cup Black Beans 7 grams
1/2 Cup Pinto Beans 6 grams
1/4 Cup Almonds 5 grams
2 Tbsp Peanut Butter 8 grams
1 Cup Quinoa 8 grams

If going the whole Stegosaurus route and eating only plant-based foods is not for you, try incorporating more vegetarian meals. Having a “Meatless Monday” or simply substituting meat with beans can help you achieve the health benefits associated with a vegetarian diet.

Try this vegetarian recipe full of flavor for your next meatless meal!

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