A vegetarian diet excludes anything with fish or meat in it. Some vegetarians still eat dairy products and eggs, but vegans are stricter in removing any animal-based products from their diet.
Contrary to common belief, the human body doesn’t really need meat to stay healthy. Many vegetarians are even healthier than those who eat animal-based foods. The diet has been linked to lower the risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and some kinds of cancer. It’s also beneficial to those with problems because it encourages weight loss. Know about the vegetarian diet here.
What Vegetarians Eat
Even without meat, a vegetarian diet contains nutritious and tasty food. Depending on what they eat, vegetarians are classified into the following:
- Pescatarians. They don’t eat meat, but they still include fish in their diet.
- Lacto-ovo-vegetarians. They avoid all kinds of meat and fish.
- Lacto-vegetarians. They don’t eat meat and eggs, but they eat dairy products.
- Ovo-vegetarians. They eat eggs but not dairy products.
- Vegans. They avoid any animal-based foods, even excluding honey from their diet.
Vegetarians need to introduce various foods into their diet to get the nutrition their body needs. But when they don’t get enough of such nutrients, some even take supplements.
Why People Go On a Vegetarian Diet
People choose to go vegetarian for various reasons, such as their religious beliefs, environmental advocacy, ideological belief, or ethical reasoning. Usually, though, it all boils down to health. Know about the vegetarian health-related reasons that might also persuade you to try this diet:
1. Lose weight
A study found that vegetarians, vegans, and mainly fish eaters showed a lower body mass index (BMI) than those who eat meat.
2. Reduced risks of suffering from diseases
A vegetarian diet is low in cholesterol and saturated fats, so it helps lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, obesity, hypertension, gall stones, constipation, and many types of cancer. This is thought to be because of the increased intake of fiber, antioxidants, carotenoids, phytonutrients, and flavonoids.
3. Lower toxicity
As long as organic vegetables are used, the toxicity in a vegetarian diet is lower compared to that of a meat-based diet. Experts said that parasites, bacteria, food-borne diseases, and chemical toxins usually spread through commercial poultry, meat, and seafood more than through plant-based foods.
Transitioning to a Vegetarian Diet
If you’ve decided to try becoming a vegetarian after eating meat for years, it helps if you make the transition gradually instead of doing it drastically. A gradual transition is likely to stick longer and become a permanent change. During the switch to being vegetarian, be prepared to deal with a few digestive issues, such as bloating and delayed muscle repair.
The American Dietetic Association suggests the following tips for those who want to become vegetarians:
- Consume more whole-grain products. Good examples would be brown rice, whole-wheat bread, or whole-grain cereals.
- Gradually reduce the use of dairy products and eggs.
- Make sure to get vitamin B12 from plant-based sources.
- Get more natural sunlight. If your exposure is low, take vitamin D supplements.
- Lessen your consumption of high-fat, high-sugar foods.
Vegetarians may not get enough of certain nutrients, but you can always find plant-based sources to get what you need. Here are some tips:
- Calcium. If you choose to drop dairy products from your vegetarian diet, you might lack calcium. It’s a good thing you can still source it from fortified soy milk, tofu, dried figs, and green leafy vegetables.
- Iron. There are a lot of plant-based sources of iron, including legumes, dried fruits, fortified breakfast cereals, and nori. Combine this with vitamin C-rich foods to increase the body’s absorption of iron.
- Vitamin D. Get enough sunlight in the morning when it’s still good for the body. But if this is not viable, increase your intake of fortified cereals and soy milk.
- Protein. If you’re not opposed to having eggs, you can include them as a good source of protein. But if you are, consider the other sources include nuts, seeds, soy milk, milk, cereals, and pulses.
- Vitamin B12. Vegetarians may need supplements to avoid vitamin B12 deficiency.
- Zinc. Dairy products contain zinc, but you can also count on soy products, nuts, dried beans, and fortified cereals as alternative plant-based sources.
A vegetarian diet does not guarantee a healthy diet, especially if you don’t monitor your caloric intake, still eat junk foods, or eat too many refined carbs. While you have removed meat from your dinner table, you still need to observe a balanced diet with a vegetarian approach.