Vegetarianism is defined as the practice of abstaining from the consumption of meat. Although I’m an occasional meat eater, I’ve straddled the vegetarian line on a few occasions. The first attempt was during a month-long challenge and out of convenience, I simply substituted all meat with eggs. There are some very noticeable changes you can expect when removing meat from your diet. These changes occur very quickly, usually within a day or two of your last carnivorous meal.
1. You’ll shed pounds
This is the first change and the most obvious. The third day of vegetarianism for me showed significant weight loss, visible in every area of my body. Although this is from personal experience, a recent publication in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics confirms that abstaining from meat could lead to natural weight loss. According to the research, the noted weight loss average is 7.5 pounds, possibly more based on a longer abstinence from meat products.
2. You’ll have improved digestion
Your body is naturally detoxing and your digestive system doesn’t have to work so hard to process heavy meats. Meat can sometimes slow down your digestive tract if consumed with high-fiber plant foods or dairy products. Meats like pork take almost five hours to digest.
It’s worth noting that there isn’t any difference in the function and process of the digestive system, whether you consume meat or not. However, as stated above, ingesting both meat and plant-based foods can “alter your bacterial profile,” slowing your digestion. Positively, an increase in plant-based foods drastically reduces your risk against cardiovascular diseases.
3. You’ll experience some bloating
Assuming that you’re now adopting a plant-based diet, rich with vegetables and fruits, prepare to experience some excessive gas, as healthy foods are usually foods that cause gas.
Tony Smithson, spokesman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic, explains that the bacteria that live in our guts love the unique carbs found in legumes (called oligosaccharides) and when they consume them, the bacteria produce nitrogen gas, which is then released through the body. Another reason is because a lot of healthy foods, such as beans and grains, are high in fiber, which results in an increased production of gas and bloating. The benefits and rewards of consuming these highly nutritious foods will eventually improve your gastrointestinal function to reduce constipation.
4. You’ll have different eating habits
Along with the cheaper grocery bill, your tastebuds might go through an adjustment period once you go vegetarian. This can be attributed to the reduction of protein and other vitamins directly available through meat, most considerably Zinc, which has many functions within the body. A study led out of the Institute of Health Bioscience at the University of Tokushima in Japan found that a Zinc deficiency results in a change and impairment in taste.
Lacking the natural vitamins your body needs is a notable shift for new vegetarians, therefore you have to replace necessary nutrients and dietary components like Zinc, Protein, B12 and Iron through other foods or supplements.
5. Your body will take longer to recover from workouts
As mentioned, the reduction in protein, which is essential for building, maintaining, and repairing muscles, might impact your workouts. This is an easy fix, as there are numerous sources of protein available from plant foods, ranging from nuts and beans to powdered supplements and liquid formulas.
6. You’ll gain newfound respect for your body
Going vegetarian is an active effort and a conscious choice. It means verifying restaurant menus prior to a meal out and being aware of the food that you eat. Whether this change is a trial or a long-term decision, the discipline required to be a vegetarian will not only benefit you physically, but inevitably leak into other aspects of your life.
You will appreciate real, living foods and the newfound agility you have with a lighter body. A number of studies examining the benefits of being a vegetarian suggest that vegetarians, on average, are more physically active, drink less alcohol, and smoke less than the general population. They also have a lower prevalence for being overweight or obese.
Featured photo credit: Eat your vegetables, they’re good for you by David Saddler via flickr.com