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How to Relate Dairy-Free Life to Vegetarianism

The ethical, environmental, and health reasons that some people go dairy-free apply just as well to the practice of eating meat. In fact, most people who go dairy-free for these reasons are already living meat-free.

Animals raised for meat are, like dairy cows, confined to factory farms. They suffer, and their lives end violently in slaughterhouses, where conditions for the humans who work there are abysmal. To avoid causing pain and suffering to animals, many people advocate a vegetarian diet. The meat and dairy industries collectively contribute substantially to problems with global warming. The meat industry also is a major polluter, affecting supplies of clean water, soil, and air.

Many of the health reasons for going dairy-free apply equally to a meat-free diet. Like dairy products, meats are high in artery-clogging saturated fat, so meat-eaters have higher risks of coronary artery disease than people who don’t eat meat.

In fact, a large body of scientific research now supports the idea that vegetarian diets in general support good health. Vegetarians live longer than nonvegetarians, and they have lower risks for numerous chronic diseases and conditions, including high blood pressure and cholesterol, cancer, and diabetes. Vegetarians also often are slimmer.

A non-dairy diet requires some of the same supplements as a meat-free diet. If you consistently eat a vegetarian diet that excludes meat, fish, and poultry — or a vegan diet that excludes meat, fish, poultry, eggs, milk, and other dairy products — you should consider a vitamin B12 supplement.

The only reliable sources of vitamin B12 that don’t come from an animal are vitamin B12 supplements or foods fortified with vitamin B12, such as fortified soymilk or rice milk and fortified breakfast cereals. Vegans also may benefit from supplements of vitamin D, calcium, and possibly docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid that’s essential for human health.

Lifestyle change isn’t easy, especially when it entails changing long-held habits or traditions. The risks you take in beginning to eliminate dairy products from your diet are similar to those you would encounter if you were trying to make other diet changes, including going vegetarian.

Changing your diet takes time and planning. At times you’ll make progress, and every once in a while, you may take a step backward, too. And sometimes you may feel discouraged or down, especially when you’re busy or under pressure and the effort the new lifestyle requires feels like a burden.

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