Vegetarian diet has always been a topic of discussion among health conscious people. Although questions regarding its nutritional adequacy have been raised but vegetarian diet is gaining popularity each and every day and many health organizations are also advocating that it is helpful in preventing and treating some diseases.
Who is really a vegetarian !
A person who does not consume meat, fish or poultry and products containing them is said to be a vegetarian. The reason could be anything either tastes health concern, ethics, religion or poor financial condition. Some people call themselves semi vegetarian.
They may sometimes eat animal foods. Lacto ovo vegetarians include eggs and milk and milk products in their diet. Lacto vegetarians consume milk and milk products. Vegans are strict vegetarians they do not consume animal or animal products.
Benefits of being a vegetarian
Obesity has been linked to many other health problems such as diabetes, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and certain types of cancers. People eating non vegetarian foods are found to be more obese and their chance of getting above mentioned diseases increases than people taking vegetarian diet. Vegetarian diet provides low fat and high fiber, this lowers body weight. Consuming fruits and vegetables keep a person’s hunger satisfied and reduce obesity.
- Consumption of saturated fat is more in people taking non vegetarian diet. Animal sources such as meat, poultry eggs and dairy products contain more saturated fat; this increases blood cholesterol level in people having non vegetarian diet. Vegetarians have low blood cholesterol level than non vegetarians because they take more fibers in the form of fruits and vegetables.
- Vegetarians are found to be less prone to hypertension; the possible reason lies in their food most probably. Scientists are trying to find the possible link between type of food taken and hypertension.
- Vegetarian diets contain high fiber and this could be the reason of low diabetes rates in vegetarians as high fiber intake and low body weight helps keep diabetes away.
- High intake of phytochemicals, more fiber and low fat consumption are the possible reasons for vegetarians not being victims of certain types of cancer.
Selecting healthy vegetarian diet
Nutritional requirement of people on vegetarian diet do not change but their sources become limited so vegetarians should plan their diet carefully in order to have a balanced diet. They should eat a variety of foods that include whole grains legumes, nuts, green leafy vegetables, fruits, a regular source of vitaminB12 (plant sources do not contain them so supplements can be taken), and food fortified with vitamin D.
Minerals such as iron calcium and zinc that are mostly found in animal sources should be taken adequately to avoid any deficiency. People on strict vegetarian diet may suffer from iron deficiency as heme iron found in red meat, lamb fish and eggs are more absorbed than non heme iron found in plant sources. Taking vitamin C would enhance absorption in them.
Milk, cheese, yogurt, canned sardines and salmon are the best source of calcium. For strict vegetarians tofu, broccoli, and rice beverages are other options. Vegetarians need 50% more zinc, wheat germ and nuts can be taken for this by strict vegetarians. Vitamin and mineral supplement can be taken on doctor’s advice.
Children’s diet should be planned more carefully as their requirement is different from adult’s .Complementary plant protein combinations like rice and beans, backed beans and corn should be added in diet. Nuts, seeds, avocardos.soy cheese and yogurt should be added in daily diet.
Keeping these things in mind plan your vegetarian diet and enjoy a good healthy life.