I’ve been a vegetarian for a while now, probably about four or five months, but only recently have I taken up running. During the school year, convo was always the place to go for me to eat good, healthy food, but over the summer I’ve felt as if I’ve had some difficulties in getting all of the nutrients I need, especially with my increase in physical activity. Just as a disclaimer before we go any further, I’m by no means a marathon runner, nor do I really run very far, but every day I try to go out after work (sitting behind the help desk at I.T.) and put a few miles behind me for health’s sake.
During module 8, we discussed nutrition and the different diets humans have had over the years. One article in particular stood out to me: the one detailing the myths that have been circulating concerning the dietary change that allowed us to consume meat and its supposed relation to our cognitive development as a species. As a vegetarian I was very interested in this article, so I decided to do a little more research into what benefits might come from a vegetarian diet, especially for an athlete, even a casual one like myself.
One of the very first sources that I went to when I first started running was Matt Frazier, writer of “No Meat Athlete,” a blog a lot like this one but with more targeted advice. I still think that it’s one of the best sources of help for vegetarians in general and for athletes in particular. A great jumping off point for this blog would be his list of staple foods that vegetarians ought to be targeting for consumption. I won’t list off all of them right now, but I will provide the link to the site.
Interestingly, one of the topics that we covered in class, the microbe communities in our guts, actually came up in my research. The article in question demonstrates that, though the different types of bacteria in the guts of the various subjects didn’t change drastically, their numbers certainly did, and thus the subjects were able to adapt to their new diets quickly and efficiently. Within four days, the subjects who had been instructed to consume strictly animal products had more bacteria that can withstand high levels of bile (bile is needed to digest meat) while the plant-only dieters’ genes involved in digesting carbohydrates increased their activity. The conclusion of the study poses the notion that “perhaps by adjusting diet, one can shape the microbiome in a way that can promote health.”
Finally, yet another article argues that vegetarians both help the environment and live longer. The conclusions of the study state that, even by reducing the amount of meat you eat without committing yourself wholly to a vegetarian diet you can enjoy increased longevity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. What particularly struck me was the scope of the study; using Seventh-day Adventists in both the United States and Canada (a multi-ethnic and geographically diverse group) a “living sample” (as opposed to a simulated test) resulted in these findings. On an individual basis, it seems that if we want to help protect the environment and live longer, we might just want to start thinking about taking the plunge and switching to vegetarianism.