By eliminating meat and animal products from their diet, some Ball State students believe they are being more health-conscious.
"I saw vegetarianism as a healthier diet than with meat, " Natural Resources student Jordan Marshall said.
A true vegetarian is defined as someone who does not consume meat, fish or poultry. In cutting these foods from their diets, vegetarians tend to have a lower incidence of heart disease, less incidence of obesity and lower blood pressure. These positives can be attributed to increased levels in fiber and decreased levels of saturated fat in their diet.
Such benefits are tendencies and cannot be specifically linked only to vegetarianism. There are, however, several problems associated with a meatless diet if normal dietary requirements are not met.
"The more restrictive you are with your diet the more you are at risk," registered dietician Judith Lowe said. Lowe is an assistant professor of Family and Consumer Sciences.
"It is possible to maintain excellent health on a vegetarian diet, but (the person) must be knowledgeable."
Certain dietary requirements, such as adequate amounts of iron, calcium, vitamin B12 and protein, are met automatically with a meat diet. If a vegetarian does not find alternative ways to replace missing nutrients, health issues such as anemia and osteoporosis can appear, Lowe said.
There are a variety of reasons why people become vegetarians. Some, like Marshall, believe it is a healthier alternative. Others abstain from meat and animal products for religious, economic or moral reasons.
Senior Jonathon Newby has more than one reason for not eating meat.
"I became a vegetarian for health reasons, but I also believe it is less cruel in the long run," Newby said.
The question of animal rights in meat processing remains an ongoing debate. Proponents of ethical animal treatment protest meat packaging by the food choices they make. A vegan is a person who does not consume animal products of any kind including milk, eggs and sometimes honey.
Newby became a vegetarian when he lived with strict vegans in Europe. To him, their diet seemed healthier, but he admits being a vegan is a big commitment.
"It takes a lot of time and energy to figure out what you can eat," Newby said.
Choosing the right foods for the body is the biggest obstacle vegans and vegetarians face. In addition, they must be mindful of vitamin and mineral supplements, which are not always adequate replacements for nutrients missed in animal products.
"People think that if they take vitamins they don't have to eat," said Debbie Foster, an assistant professor of food science and preparation. "You're not getting the side benefits of animal products."
Foster asserts that knowledge of natural alternatives in conjunction with eating a variety of foods can prevent such problems.
"Soy products and soy milk with added calcium, nuts, beans and tofu all (contribute to) a balanced diet," she said.
In her classes, Foster addresses such alternative eating habits by defining and describing them, but does not favor any eating style over another. She maintains the healthiest choice for any diet is to eat a variety of foods in a variety of colors. How do you eat a variety of colors??
Neither Marshall or Newby have had problems related to their diets but each conceeded that he would go back to an omnivorous diet if his health were in jeopardy.
"There have been times when I would go back to eating meat for a couple of days, but I always come back to being a vegetarian," Newby said.