The practice of eating plant based diet without dairy products, eggs and meat is called vegetarianism. Vegetarianism can be followed for different reasons, it can be due to religious beliefs, animal rights and other factors including health, political, environmental, cultural and economic values.
There are differences within the practice of following a vegetarian diet. Ovo veg diet includes eggs but not dairy products. Lacto veg diet includes dairy products but not eggs. Vegan diet excludes eggs, honey and dairy products. Ovo-lacto veg diet includes both eggs and dairy products.
Since vegetarian diet does not include foods from all the sources many people had and some still have questions about the nutritional adequacy of the vegetarian diet. But the American Dietetic Association has said that vegetarian diets if well planned are healthful and nutritious, is suitable for all age groups and it also helps prevent heart diseases, cancer and diabetes. Recently an Australian study has also found that vegetarian diet is very healthy and that it prevents certain diseases.
The positive features of vegetarian diet are that, it lowers the levels of saturated fat, cholesterol and animal protein. It contributes higher amounts of carbohydrates, fiber, magnesium, potassium and antioxidants such as vitamin C and E and phytochemicals. Generally the vegetarians have lower body mass index, lower cholesterol, blood pressure, lower rates of heart diseases, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, renal disease and metabolic syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease.
Now, inclusion of non lean red meat in particular is directly associated with the increased risk of cancers of the esophagus, liver, colon and lungs. But there is a downside to vegetarian diet. Vegetarians are more likely to be deficient in vitamin B12 deficiency which increases the likelihood of osteoporosis and depression.
To ensure optimal vegan diet include vitamin B12 fortified foods such as soy and rice beverages, breakfast cereals and B12 fortified nutritional yeast. Tempe is a whole grain product with high folate content. For proper calcium intake include green leafy vegetables, tofu, tahini and calcium fortified soy and rice beverages and orange and apple juices.
For adequate vitamin D especially during winters consume vitamin D enriched foods. Lupin beans, soy, hempseed, chia seed, amaranth, buck wheat, peanut butter and quinoa contain significant amounts of the eight amino acids to ensure your optimal protein intake. You can combine a variety of complimentary plant sources to provide you with eight essential amino acids.
Vegetarian sources of omega 3 fatty acids include soy, walnuts, pumpkin, canola oil, kiwi fruit, hemp seed, algae, chia seed and flax seed. Foods rich in zinc such as whole grains, legumes, soy products provide sufficient zinc intake. Eating a vegetarian diet is a good recipe for our own health and that of the planet in which we live.
soy-whey diet photo courtesy of Wikipedia
photo of vegetable stall by Simon Howden
photo of vegetables by Grant Cochrane