Vegetarian Diet - Types, Health Benefits, Nutrients and Meal Plans

Vegetarianism is the practice of abstaining from the usage of red meat, poultry, seafood as well as the flesh of any other animal. Without a doubt, vegetarian diet has been long practiced, no matter what’s the reason – lots of people don’t consume meat from respect for sentient life. These kinds of ethical motivations are usually codified under various religious beliefs, and also animal rights advocacy. Other reasons for a vegetarian diet are health-related, political, environmental, cultural, aesthetic, economic, or personal preference. However, there are various degrees of a vegetarian diet and some of them are stringent and contain just plant food items such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts.

– Ovo-Lacto vegetarian diet does not include consumption of meat but does include consumption of some animal products such as eggs and dairy products.

– Lacto-vegetarian diet includes vegetables and dairy products but excludes eggs.

– Ovo-vegetarianism is a type of vegetarianism which allows intake of eggs but not dairy products, unlike Lacto vegetarianism.

– Semi-vegetarian diets consist largely of vegetarian foods but may include fish or poultry, but they should avoid red meat.

– Vegan diet excludes any kind of animal products, including eggs and dairy products.

Health Benefits

Vegetarian diet may offer a number of health benefits such as reduced risk of chronic diseases, greater protection from diabetes, supports a healthy body weight, reduce your risk of heart diseases, may help reduce cancer risks, supports the thyroid, reduces risk of cataract, therapeutic support for rheumatoid arthritis, promotes kidney health, improve longevity. Those health benefits can not be obtained by practicing other diets, but however, the “key” for a successful vegetarian lifestyle is choosing healthy meals and snacks.

What are the nutrients to consider in a vegetarian diet?

• Protein. The intake of Protein in vegetarian diets is lower than in meat diets, however, if you are vegetarian you can still meet the daily requirements of Protein. Plant proteins by themselves can provide as much as necessary of the essential and non-essential amino acids, as long as sources of dietary protein are varied and caloric intake is high enough to meet energy needs. Some of the greatest sources of protein for vegetarians are pumpkin seeds, peanut butter, hemp seed, almonds, pistachio nuts, flaxseed, tofu, oats, soybeans, walnuts.

• Iron. Vegetarians may have a greater risk of iron deficiency than those who are not vegetarians. Wealthy sources of iron are red meat, liver, egg yolk, but they are high in cholesterol. If you want to become vegetarian here are the vegetarian foods rich in iron that you should know: black beans, cashews, hempseed, kidney beans, broccoli, lentils, oatmeal, raisins, spinach, cabbage, lettuce, black-eyed peas, soybeans, many kinds of cereal for breakfast, sunflower seeds, chickpeas, tomato juice, tempeh, molasses, thyme, and whole-wheat bread.

• Vitamin B-12. This vitamin is not generally present in plants and is naturally found in foods of animal origin. Vegans can obtain Vitamin B-12 from fortified foods (including some soy products and some breakfast cereals) and dietary supplements, Lacto-ovo vegetarians can obtain Vitamin B-12 from eggs and dairy products. Vitamin B12 can also be obtained from vitamin supplements and fortified yeast extract products.

• Vitamin D. Vegans should definitely get a reliable source of vitamin D. Vitamin D needs can be reached by the human body’s own generation upon adequate and smart exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light in sunlight. Milk products, soy milk as well as cereal grains could be fortified to provide a source of Vitamin D. Those vegans who are not enough exposed to the sun or don’t have enough food sources of Vitamin D might need to take Vitamin D supplement.

• Calcium. Some studies show that vegetarians take in and retain even more calcium from foods in comparison with those who are not vegetarians. Good sources of calcium for a vegetarian diet can be found in vegetable greens such as spinach, kale and broccoli, and some legumes and soybean products.

• Zinc. Zinc is important mineral which is needed for growth and development. This mineral is not contained in large amounts in plant foods however as much as can be detected, vegetarians have similar zinc status to those who are not vegetarians. Like one of the best plant sources of zinc are legumes, nuts, seeds, and oatmeal. But keep in mind that you need to care about the selection supplements, they need to contain no more than 15-18 mg zinc. Supplements that contain 50 mg or more may lower the good cholesterol (HDL) in some people.

• Fat. It’s important to say that not all of the vegetarian diets are low in fat and calories. As an example, hamburgers, chips, candies and sweets are not the healthiest choices. But nevertheless, by selecting the most appropriate food products, healthy cooking, as well as food preparation, a vegetarian diet can considerably reduce the level of saturated fat and cholesterol, then other diets which include animal products.

What meal plans are recommended?

The vegetarian diet needs to include an array of foods as well as enough calories to satisfy your energy needs.

Minimize the intake of sweets and fatty foods as much as possible. Foods such those are high in calories but low in nutrients.
Whole or refined grain products needs to be used when possible, or use fortified or enriched cereal products.
A wide range of fruits and vegetables needs to be included into your diet, including foods that are good sources of Vitamin A and Vitamin C.
In case you are using milk or dairy products choose low-fat varieties or fat-free/nonfat varieties.

Sources & References:

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Vegetarianism is the practice of abstaining from the usage of red meat, poultry, seafood as well as the flesh of any other animal. Without a doubt, vegetarian diet has been long practiced, no matter what's the reason - lots of people don't consume meat from respect for sentient life....
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