Thanksgiving without turkey may seem like heresy, but for many Americans Thanksgiving (and the rest of the year) will be meatless.
According to a 2008 study published by the Vegetarian Times about 3.2% of Americans, or 7.3 million people, are vegetarians who choose not to eat meat, poultry, fish, and their by-products. Of these vegetarians, 59% are female.
So, what is so shocking about choosing not to eat meat? Absolutely nothing, as long as vegetarians meet their nutrient needs (especially iron, zinc, and vitamin B12). Health studies have shown that adult vegetarians tend to exercise more, drink less, and maintain a lower weight than non-vegetarians.
But not all vegetarians are so healthy and for some, vegetarianism can be an excuse for diet restriction, especially amongst those 59% of vegetarians who are women.
Several studies conducted with adolescents and college students have found alarming trends among female vegetarians. Here are some results from those studies:
- An Australian study of more than 2,000 teenagers found that self-described female vegetarians were more likely to be preoccupied with thinness and practice food restriction to burn calories.
- One study found that 56% of the patients in an eating disorder clinic cut out meat from their diets anywhere from 1 to 6 years prior to the onset of anorexia.
- A Minnesota study found adolescent vegetarians were significantly more likely to exhibit bulimic behaviors than non-vegetarians.
So this Thanksgiving, whether it’s filled with turkey or not, make sure you get the nutrients you need. For those who choose a vegetarian diet be aware that vegetarianism can be associated with deficiencies of iron, zinc, and vitamin B12.