Although I respect those who choose a vegetarian diet for religious and/or ethical reasons, I would redirect someone randomly choosing vegetarianism or veganism because they assume it’s a “healthier” way to eat. In reality, vegetarians and vegans have to work harder at finding nutrients that are as readily available and as easily absorbable as found in animal foods. Here’s a great example: People are on a major flax and chia seed bandwagon for sources of Omega-3s. But, unlike fish and grass-fed beef, which are easy-to-absorb sources of this essential fatty acid, flax and chia have to go through a serious bodily conversion process to become an available source of Omega-3. Most people do not or cannot make that conversion well.
Another example: Plant foods do not have vitamin A. They contain beta-carotene (found in those pretty vegetable colors), which must be converted to vitamin A. Again, this is a tough bodily conversion for many people to make. They could much more easily get vitamin A from eggs, seafood, meat, and full-fat dairy.
Vegetarians and vegans also risk deficiency in certain amino acids (critical for mental health) by relying solely on plant foods for protein. Animal protein offers the full spectrum of essential amino acids while plant proteins do not. Studies that show vegetarians are “healthier” than meat eaters are typically lumping in lifestyle factors (not just food) to make that claim. People who choose vegetarianism tend to be more conscious in all areas of health (not smoking, more exercise, choosing organic foods, etc.) over the average meat eater, which skews the study. But when you match a health-conscious omnivore with a health-conscious vegetarian, studies show that the meat eater’s health markers stack up just fine.