Can You Experience Withdrawal From Meat?

Adopting a vegetarian diet may be one of the best choices you can make for your health. When you stop eating meat and start eating more plant-based foods, you'll likely consume less unhealthy saturated fat and cholesterol and consume more health-boosting vitamins, minerals, and fiber (per Harvard Health Publishing). This swap can lead to lower rates of certain conditions like heart disease, some cancers, and diabetes.

According to Medical News Today, however, a vegetarian diet isn't automatically healthier than a diet that includes meat. To fully reap the benefits of a meat-free diet, you must stock up on produce and whole grains, limit your consumption of processed foods and watch your intake of added sugar and salt — which may be just as likely to creep into a vegetarian diet as a diet high in animal products.

Without focusing on healthy alternatives to meat, a vegetarian diet may not offer many benefits. In fact, the American Society for Nutrition notes that, like any other elimination diet, a vegetarian diet that eliminates meat and seafood could lack essential nutrients. But is this enough to trigger a withdrawal from meat?

Here's what might happen when you stop eating meat

Cutting meat out of your meals may trigger some withdrawal-like symptoms, especially if you don't consume foods and supplements rich in vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients (per WebMD). You may experience fatigue from a dip in protein and iron consumption. Additionally, you may notice tingling in your hands and feet, nausea and digestive issues, irritability, tongue pain, and weakness — all possible signs that you're not getting enough vitamin B12, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

If you experience symptoms of withdrawal after eliminating meat from your diet, know that your body isn't withdrawing from the meat itself. Rather, it's lacking the nutrients found in meat, triggering some uncomfortable symptoms. Registered dietitian Dani Levy-Wolins told Real Simple, "[Y]ou may want to ensure your nutrition needs are met by eating a wide variety of foods and plenty of plant-based proteins. ... Not only will this help you feel strong and healthy but may also introduce you to new and exciting ingredients!" Skip the convenient processed foods when possible, and opt for nutrient-dense whole foods instead. Vegetarian Times also suggests popping supplements to fill the gaps. Consider taking supplements containing vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids from non-fish sources.