Vegetarians and Immune Systems – Are Theirs Stronger?
This is a topic that is itching for a good fiery debate! Our immune strength being top of mind lately, I thought vegetarians and immune systems was a good subject to discuss.
Over the past few years, the idea of eating a vegetarian (or vegan) diet has become increasingly popular for a number of reasons. Some people do it because they believe it to be morally right, while others try it out hoping to see weight loss benefits.
Many have claimed that by going vegetarian and maintaining a plant-based diet you will boost your immune system; others believe doing this will actually hurt you in the long run. The reason people believe a vegetarian diet is better for your immune system is because so many of the immune boosting foods available to us are plants and plant based, so centering your diet around them will give you more of the vitamins and nutrients you need to boost your immune system.
I don’t think anyone will argue that vegetables and fruits contain many important nutrients, and they’re essential to your diet if you want to maintain a strong immune system. However, some people take issue with the lack of meat in a vegetarian diet, citing the fact that you also need protein to keep your immune system strong.
While meat is a very plentiful source of protein, it’s not the only source of protein. These days, vegetarians can get protein from all kinds of different sources, all of them without any meat. Different vegetables and fruits provide protein. For example, avocados provide protein, and did you know an avocado is a fruit?
Protein is important to your immune system because it helps build white blood cells and antibodies, both of which are key in fighting off disease. Vegetarian diets that have a variety of sources of protein are able to keep your body well stocked with the building blocks it needs to preventing disease with an array of vitamins and minerals.
Key to success with a vegetarian diet is to learn to mix foods so you are getting the twelve amino acids that comprise a complete protein. This means, among other things, combining beans and grains during a meal or during the day. There are differing schools of thought on the timing. Can you tell that a vegetarian diet, along with benefits, has some challenges?
Just as a vegetarian who doesn’t eat enough protein will suffer health consequences, so will a person who only eats meat without an adequate amount of fruits and vegetables. Sourcing a complete protein is a process for a vegetarian, so if you are a meat eater, you are best served when choosing protein that is fresh, responsibly raised and not fed with GMO feed and antibiotics. If you’re not getting adequate complete protein, then vegetarians and immune systems can become a concern.
Whatever diet you choose to follow, be sure to increase your intake of fresh vegetables and fruits. The Clean Fifteen and the Dirty Dozen, which is updated by the Environmental Working Group every year (ewg.org) is a wonderful resource for you. You can get a copy of it here: http://cherylloves.me/Clean152020 I suggest you make a copy and keep it with you when you shop. That’s helped me make good choices when I’m in the produce aisle.
If you’d like to go vegetarian, and are concerned about vegetarians and immune systems, just be aware that if you are careful and informed about the vegetarian diet, you will reap the rewards.
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Cheryl A Major, CNWC
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