Vegetarians and vegans embrace their lifestyle for a variety of reasons — from spiritual connections to health concerns.
Dietitian Stacie Ellis said vegan and vegetarian diets can be healthy but need proper planning and understanding of nutrition.
“It is very important that before you start a vegetarian lifestyle that you do your research regarding how to get proper nutrients,” Ellis said.
If a vegetarian restricts their diet too much, they may feel constantly tired and fatigued, Ellis said.
Eggs are generally a source of protein for vegetarians but can lead to weight gain if eaten in excess, she said.
The mortality rates for heart diseases, cancer and diabetes is about the same for non-vegetarians, Ellis said.
Fruits and vegetables are a good source for vitamins.
The fiber in these products helps individuals with digestion and strengthening the immune system, she said.
Vegetarians may be at risk for a lack of vitamin B-12, which is found mainly in meat products, but they can take supplements or shots to counteract the issue. Mushrooms have vitamin B-12 but can be toxic if overconsumed and shouldn’t be the primary source, Ellis said.
Vegetarians can consume dairy products but not meat, whereas vegans are restricted from both.
English senior Linda Rivas spent two years as a vegetarian but has now given up dairy products to become a vegan.
Rivas usually brings vegan dishes to school, she said, because finding vegan options on campus remains difficult as choices are limited and often expensive.
Difficulties of adjusting to the lifestyle consisted of refraining from eating eggs, cheese and pizza.
She became a vegan because of environmentalism, animal rights and health benefits.
Grocery stores often have nondairy milk and other alternate products, she said.Chickpeas, beans and lentils with seasoning offer a cheap and easy way to budget for the lifestyle.
Shashank Malal, mechanical civil engineering graduate student, said he has a spiritual connection with his lifestyle and being a vegan plays a part in adhering to his beliefs.
Moral standpoints vary from person to person, he said.
Although being a vegan is a part of compassion for him, he doesn’t judge others for choosing otherwise.
Malal practiced yoga and meditation in high school, which led to his current lifestyle along with his veganism.
Veganism should feel natural and shouldn’t be forced or committed to out of guilt, he said.
“Do not try exclusively on being a vegan or something like that, because if you try to pull something out of moral standards, or new standards, it’s never going to work out like that,” Malal said.