What is a vegetarian diet?
A vegetarian diet is a diet which consists of plant and plant products without including any animal products like meat, fish and eggs. In other words, it is a meat-free diet. A person who follows a vegetarian diet is known as a vegetarian and vegetarianism is the practice of abstaining from the consumption of meat.
A vegetarian diet is different from a vegan diet in that dairy products are excluded from the vegan diet but not in the vegetarian diet. Therefore dairy products are permitted in the vegetarian diet.
The vegetarian diet has been practised in many Asian countries including India for a long time. However, there is a surge in the popularity of the vegetarian diet in western countries with its valuable health benefits. Individuals become vegetarian for a variety of motives. Making vegetarian food is more biologically sustainable, and it reduces harm to the environment. Many people discontinue consuming meat for ideological, ethical, or religious reasons.
How to become a vegetarian?
Although there are so many myths about vegetarian diets, with correct organizing techniques to obtain protein, the vegetarian diet can meet the needs of people of all ages, including children, teenagers, and pregnant or breastfeeding women.
First of all, you need to have good knowledge of nutrition in almost every food. Especially in vegetables, fruits, nuts, cereals and legumes. And it is important to know about vegetarian protein intake. You can always use the internet to learn about nutrition or you can get information from an experienced nutritionist or dietician.
It will be a little difficult at the beginning so it is best not to attempt to go full vegetarian from non- vegetarian. It is better to start with a gradual reduction of meat and animal products from the diet which will lead to vegetarian cooking. And it is important to reduce sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juices and refined grains in order to maintain a healthy vegetarian diet.
Foods to eat and foods to avoid.
Vegetarians should have a clear idea about what foods to eat and what foods to avoid.
A vegetarian meal must contain a various mixture of fruits, vegetables, grains, healthy fats and proteins. It is important to take the sufficient protein provided by meat via the diversity of protein-rich plant foods like nuts, seeds, legumes, tempeh, tofu and seitan. As well as proteins minerals and vitamins should accompany the vegetarian diet.
Following are some foods that need to be consumed as part of a vegetarian diet.
- Fruits - Apples, bananas, berries, oranges, melons, pears, peaches.
- Vegetables - Leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli, tomatoes, carrots
- Leafy greens - Bok choy, spinach, kale, watercress and mustard greens
- Legumes - Beans, lentils, chickpeas, peas, kidney beans, black beans, soybeans, pinto beans, and navy beans.
- Nuts and nut butter- Almonds, cashew, brazil nuts, chestnuts hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts pistachio, macadamia and walnuts.
- Seeds - Hemp, chia and flax seeds.
- Fortified plant milk and yoghurts - Almond milk, rice milk, oat milk, coconut milk, soy milk and hemp milk.
- Algae - Spirulina and chlorella.
- Nutritional yeast.
- Whole grains, cereals - Rice, barley, brown rice, buckwheat, millet, oat, popcorn, wheat and bulgur.
- Sprouted and fermented plant foods - Ezekiel bread, tempeh, miso, sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi and kombucha.
- Tofu, tempeh and seitan.
- Various types of ketchup.
- Dairy products - Milk, cheese, curd, yoghurt, ice cream, ghee (There are some vegetarians may also avoid dairy products.
There are many foods to avoid in a vegetarian diet, the following are a list of foods to avoid.
- Any meat (Beef, lamb, pork, veal, horse, organ meat, wild meat, chicken, turkey, goose, duck and quail)
- All types of fish and seafood (prawns anchovies, shrimp, squid, scallops, calamari, mussels, crab and lobster
- All types of eggs.
- Some avoid other animal products- Vegans may choose to avoid honey, beeswax and pollen.
Benefits of a vegetarian diet
There are numerous health benefits of a vegetarian diet.
- It helps to reduce body weight.
- Helps to maintain healthier cholesterol levels (reduce low-density lipoproteins/LDL know as bad cholesterol).
- Lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases including heart attacks and high blood pressure.
- Increasing the skin glow.
- Lower the risk of developing cancer.
- Lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Helps to manage hypertension.
- Lower the risk of Metabolic Syndrome risk.
- Helps to maintain good digestive system and promote digestion very well.
Risks of a vegetarian diet
However, there is a risk of malnourishment in following vitamins and minerals when you are following a vegetarian diet.
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B12
It is important to source nutrients including al above on a vegetarian diet, as these may be in short supply without animal products in the diet. It is important to plan your vegetarian meal without missing any of the above vitamins and minerals, here are some vegetarian foods that are rich in above in order to prevent deficiency diseases.
- Protein - nuts, peanut butter, grains, legumes, eggs, dairy, tofu, tempeh and seitan.
- Iron - legumes, whole grains, fortified cereals, seeds, tofu, nori, dried fruits such as figs, and broccoli. ( Consuming these with foods high in vitamin C, for example, citrus fruits or tomatoes, will help the body absorb the iron.)
- Calcium - milk, yoghurt, cottage cheese, fortified non-dairy milk tofu, fortified soy milk, green leafy vegetables, and dried figs.
- Zinc - dried beans, fortified cereals, nuts, seeds, dairy, and nutritional yeast.
- Vitamin B12 - dairy, fortified breakfast cereal, soy milk, eggs, and nutritional yeast(supplement may be necessary if there is a deficiency of vitamin B12)
- Vitamin D - cow's milk. Human skin can make large amounts of vitamin D when lots of skin is exposed and the sun is high in the sky
Becoming a vegetarian will not promise good health. Anyone is at risk of poor health if they consume too many calories, unhealthy snack foods, and too many refined carbohydrates, whole milk dairy products, and junk foods. A balanced vegetarian diet with proper nutritious foods will provide all the above-mentioned health benefits. But make sure to plan your meal properly. That way, you'll relish the benefits of vegetarian diet while minimizing the side effects.