Becoming Vegetarian: Health benefits

Hi everyone, 

I'm going to kick off my first post for 2015 (slack I know) with something that I'm very interested in for my own health as well as my patients.  It all starts with a story...

I take it that most of us know about FebFast and going without something for the month of February.  Well this year I decided to give FebFast a go and do without chocolate and meat for the 28 days of February.  For those that know me, you will know how much I am addicted to chocolate and love meat.  Like I mean I was having meat with most meals and chocolate on a nearly daily basis, easy to do with the stash of chocolate that seems to be always present on the ward!

So my main reason for giving up the chocolate and meat was for a healthier lifestyle, and partly due to the fact that over Christmas I read a couple of books on running and healthy living (Eat and Run by Scott Jurek being the main life changer which they are going to make into a movie yay!).  Basically Eat and Run talks about Scott Jureks 'unlikely journey to ultra marathon greatness' and he chats about his change from eating meat to ultimately becoming fully vegan, and still running ultra marathons and not only running them but getting better and winning.  

After finishing the book I read a few more similar stories, which then got me watching some doco's, reading some articles blah blah blah and then came my decision to do FebFast.  Like I mentioned, I do love meat and chocolate and after FebFast is over I feel I will eat these again, but on a much lower scale then before. 

I guess the point of this post is to make us all as nurses think not only of patient nutrition but our own nutrition.  I know my knowledge in this area could be improved which I'm trying to do at the moment but there is a lot of conflicting information out there.  One question that I'm getting asked constantly is 'where are you getting your protein?'  and 'you're getting too much sugar eating all that fruit' and not forgetting the 'vegan's are sickly' comment that my partner got off our GP when he told her of our dietary change.  

For the record, a lot of fruits and veges are packed with protein, and as a Western society we are generally eating too much protein anyway through meat and animal products.  All of the sugar I am eating is naturally occurring in fruits, I'm eating virtually no processed sugar so all I'm getting is complex carbs making my energy more stable and I'm feeling full for longer as well.  And some people are worried about developing Type 2 Diabetes with all the fruit intake... Apparently those who eat whole fruits have a lower incidence of Type 2 Diabetes, you can check out a study on this here.  As for feeling 'sickly', well... Not at all.  I feel I have a lot more energy, now some of you are probably thinking that this is all in my head and maybe it is, who knows, but I'm defiantly doing more this month then I had been when I was eating meat.  

The ABC posted an article last week about the rise of Type 2 diabetes 'Up to 74 Victorians a day diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes' which just shows how important our lifestyle choices are, not only for ourselves but also our patients.  All of these newly diagnosed patients will most likely need medical intervention in hospital at some point as a result of their condition, so what can we do about it? 

I think education is the key.  There are so many different beliefs and fads out there.  Someone told me that they went to their GP regarding the high cholesterol and the GP suggested they undertake the 5:2 diet where they fast for 2 days of the week and eat normally the rest of the time.  Our GP believes you should eat meat otherwise you will be sickly and doesn't believe in the 5:2.  Where's the consistency? 

As for myself, when February finishes I will have some meat and chocolate.  But this meat and chocolate will be a treat that will occur very rarely.  One thing that I have found this month is that I don't actually miss meat (chocolate is another story though).  But for me I believe having a diet high in fruits, vegetables and grains is part of a healthier lifestyle and one which I intend to continue.   


For those of you who want to know a bit more check out these links:

  • This is a good one chatting about the origin of running, its by Chris McDougall who is author of Born to Run, you can see it here, it runs for about 15 mins
  • Dean Ornish is a Clinical Professor and is an expert on fighting illness, here is another TED talk going for about 15 mins about taking advantage of the body's ability to help heal itself, you can see it here
  • Medscape is a great resource for medical articles, heres one on 'health implications of a vegetarian diet'.
  • And lastly heres another article from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Health effects of vegan diets


Happy reading!