People who choose not to eat meat adopt a vegetarian diet for a variety of reasons. Some people do it for ethical reasons, believing that is unmoral to eat animals. Others do it for health reasons, since there has been a growing mass of evidence that a vegetarian lifestyle is good for a person’s health. The health benefits vary, and not all experts agree upon the interpretations of studies. One advantage though to a vegetarian diet, is that it is better for the skin than eating a traditional diet of meat and processed junk food.
More and more, dieticians are encouraging people to eat less red meat or to eliminate it entirely from their diet. According to Deborah Dunham, meat eating, especially red meat can clog the arteries and inflame the body and may even cause acne and prevent nutrients from going to the skin; as a result, the skin lacks luster (2013).
Without knowing the science behind non-meat diets benefiting the skin, I experienced when I was a child this phenomenon first hand. When my sisters and I were growing up our parents did not have much money and we ate meat about once per week; during those times we thought we were deprived, but now when we look back we realized that those were “the good old days.” I remember well, people on the streets would comment about our glowing, soft skin and it was only after I became an adult and see the radiant skin of other people who have never eaten meat, I discover I have made a bad trade. Having researched the issue, it seems it was not coincidence that we had such radiant skin as scientific studies on the issue have confirmed through studies that red meat and fat can contribute to poor skin health. Cara Birnbaum also agrees that the consumption of animal fat is not good for the skin; “eating Mediterranean may also protect against melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, a recent Italian study suggests” (2011).
Of course, the issues when it comes to health and diet are never clear-cut. Therefore, it is no surprise that a vegetarian diet for better skin is challenged. As with all diets a marginal few will not experience a positive effect. Some people argue just the opposite, that people need nutrients. Namely, B-12, zinc and iron are all nutrients are that are found in animal proteins that people not eating meat will not be getting from meat if they do not have it in their diet. The opposition has claimed that there are certain nutrients the skin needs that cannot be gotten from any other food than animal protein; they are people who believe that vegetarians may have “deficiency” of the three previously mentioned nutrients. (Suzanne Robin, 2011) Nutrients that can only be found in animal meat. But this is an erroneous since there are other sources of these nutrients that do not involve consuming animals.
Human require a very low level of the vitamin B12. B12 is not actually an animal protein, rather it comes from bacteria. Animals that are a high source of B12 get it from plants containing that bacteria. Nutritional yeasts are a source of B12 that vegetarians can consume in order to get their needed amount in their diet. (Mangels, 2013). Dried beans and and leafy greens such as spinach are good sources of iron that are able to be absorbed in the body (Mangels, 2013). It seems to the argument that vegans do not get enough iron is unfounded as Reed Mangels, a PhD and vegan advocate cites statistics in his book Simply Vegan that “vegetarians do not have a higher incidence of iron deficiency than do meat eaters” (Mangels, 2013). Finally, zinc, another essential mineral for skin health, is found in readily available sources such as legumes, nuts and seeds.
Though this is far from scientific, in my own experience, since I’ve realized that the good skin I enjoyed as a little girl with my sister might have been from are diet, I often observe the difference in complexion from my friends who eat meat and those who don’t. There seems to be a correlation between healthy skin and shimmering complexions from my friends who eat meat and between those that do not. I might think that this was a mere coincidence if it was not for those who study the issue scientifically coming to the same conclusion. There are numerous health benefits associated with cutting out meat mostly or entirely from one’s diet. Healthy skin is one on a long list that includes longer lifespans, lowered cholesterol, and decreased list of heart disease. Even if a person has no ethical problems with animals being consumed for food, they may consider thinking about going vegetarian or vegan for the health benefits. Currently, I eat meat because I do not have the self-control to give it up completely, but because of the health benefits of refraining form it, I am committed to one day cutting it out entirely.
Birnbaum, Cara. (2011). “Can Vegan Diet Cause Skin Problem?” Retrieved from http://www.livestrong.com/article/551672-can-vegan-diets-cause-skin-problems/
Dunham, Deborah. (2013). “Will Going Vegan Give You Great Skin?” Health.com. Retrieved from http://www.youbeauty.com/skin/vegan-diet-skin
Kovacs, Betty. “Vegetarian and Vegan Diet.” Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/01/04/diet.good.for.skin/index
Mangels, R. (n.d.). Iron in the Vegan Diet -- The Vegetarian Resource Group. The Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG). Retrieved October 1, 2013, from http://www.vrg.org/nutrition/iron.php