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I have been vegetarian for several years and now I rarely eat meat (never red meat). I have often heard people (including medical doctors) that in order to have a healthy life you should eat a bit of everything (that includes red meat).

People that have little or no medical knowledge have a hard time providing an explanation to support their claims and those having medical knowledge typically talk about risk of developing some deficiencies, although they do not dive into the details.

As far as I know, a vegetarian's greatest risk is related to B12 deficiency since it is virtually found in meat only and they have to compensate through supplements.

Question: How to counter the theory that you need to eat a bit of everything to have a balanced life?

I am interested mostly in answers that cover the social point of view as scientific references do not seem to be very convincing.

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First we need to define "a bit of everything" and "balanced life". I'll go with the following definition:

  1. "a bit of everything" means to include almost every product on a periodic basis.
  2. "balanced life" only concerns physical health induced by nutrition.

Now for the social argument:

People who bring up this argument, usually want to see you struggle explaining yourself.

  1. I suggest to turn the tables: "everything" also includes tofu, chick peas, black beans, nuts of all kind, brown rice and many more (get creative).
  2. The phrase is very old, for example people thought that a smoothie with 5 bananas was good for weight loss.
  3. Since we are on the social side, you can bring up Okinawa diet, I'm sure they don't include salami-pizza or cheesecakes.
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For a facile reply, you could point out there are plenty of poisons that it is best to avoid. Should you eat a little bit of all mushrooms? Should you include a little beer, wine, gin, whiskey, etc? Tobacco?

More seriously, if you want a very simple rule to encourage a healthy diet then this might not be too bad. I would then point out that a rule as simple as that is unlikely to be perfect; at best it is a reasonable starting point.

I would also point out that advice to eat more fruits and vegetables is very common e.g. 5 a day. Advice to eat more meat or dairy products is rare or non-existent.

If you decide to restrict your diet for any reason then it is likely that some more consideration of how to be healthy will be required. Denying this will probably just make you less credible.

In my case, I just point to myself. After decades of being vegetarian and close to vegan, I am still more healthy than most people around. I am very rarely sick and I play lots of sports and can compete against people half my age.

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