Thompson: Vegetarianism isn’t the answer to your health problems

Madison Thompson

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

A wise person told me that if you can’t pronounce the ingredients in it, don’t eat it.

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In the past three years, plant-based eating has skyrocketed with a 600 percent increase in the United States alone, mainly among millennials. As meat alternatives and plant-based options become more available, it would be fair to assume a portion of Colorado State University students are following the trend.

The U.S. isn’t the only place experiencing this surge. In Germany, those who identify as vegetarian and vegan have jumped from 24 percent in 2014 to almost double at 44 percent in 2018.

But becoming vegetarian or vegan does not mean you are the pinnacle of health. They can and still do eat food that’s greasy, deep fried and smothered in sauces.

One of the main reasons people opt for a meat free diet is to eat healthier. This is no surprise when you consider the World Health Organization report on the link between colorectal cancer red and the consumption of red and processed meats. 

If you aren’t eating meat, then you won’t be ingesting those harmful substances that hinder a healthy lifestyle.

But are plant-based foods truly the better option? And most importantly, do they even taste good?

As a former vegetarian, I believe the most common mistake vegetarians make is incorrectly replacing meat with improper nutrients. A meal is only as health as its ingredients. I personally ate more potatoes than I thought possible, and drenched everything in cheese. 

Cheese contains a compound derived from the molecule casein, called casomorphin. Dairy literally has opiate molecules built into it. So yes, cheese is like crack because both release dopamine that triggers your brain’s reward center and gives it those addictive qualities.

It’s important to consider the fact that vegetarian and veganism are animal rights movements– benefitting the planet and our own health is just a bonus. It just so happens inflicting less suffering than necessary happen to be better for us, the animals and the planet.

When viewed this way, one could consider animal agriculture and its tension with our morals and what is good for people. Maybe we should stop trying to fight it so much. This is another reason why the on-campus slaughterhouse is a step in the wrong direction, it combats some people’s morals.

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So what should you be looking for in a healthy diet, vegetarian or not? Balance. It’s easier to think in terms of food groups than actual food or meals, such as veggies, whole grains, protein. Fiber is often overlooked, but it plays an important part in maintaining your gut microbiome.

If you are considering going vegetarian, or even just consciously eliminating animal products from your diet a few times a week, start slow. Don’t try to replace meat with plant-based alternatives all the time. If you are trying to be a vegetarian, be a smart one.

And remember, it’s a journey. You can mess up and try again.

Madison Thompson can be reached at letters@collegian.com or onTwitter @heyymadison.