VEGETARIANISM – A detailed guide to following a vegetarian diet | Health & Nutrition – Mag The Weekly Magazine

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Vegetarianism has become even more popular in recent years as more and more people start to cut meat from their diets. Whether it’s because they have gone full-on vegan or just make the effort to do meat-free Mondays, people everywhere are beginning to embrace a plant-based diet.

Not only has a diet high in vegetables proven to have a myriad of health benefits, but it’s also better for the environment and our wallets too. Here, let’s dive into what it means to be a vegetarian and the effect it could have on your health.

What does it mean to be a vegetarian?

People following a vegetarian diet take meals focused on plants, including nuts, seeds, grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes. There are many different types of vegetarians, but the most traditional definition is someone who doesn’t eat meat.

Types of vegetarian diets

A strict vegetarian eats a diet free of meat, including chicken and fish, but there are many different versions of the vegetarian diet. Here are eight:

• Lacto-ovo-vegetarians eat both eggs and dairy but no meat, poultry, or fish

• Lacto-vegetarians eat dairy products but no eggs

• Ovo-vegetarians eat eggs but no dairy

• Pollotarians eat poultry but no other meat, dairy, or fish

• Pescatarians eat fish but no meat

• Semivegetarians don’t eat red meat but do eat chicken and fish

• Flexitarians stick to a vegetarian diet most of the time but eat meat on occasion

• Vegans, the strictest type of vegetarian, refrain from all animal products and animal byproducts, including dairy, eggs, honey, and things made with gelatin.

How vegetarianism works: Foods to eat and avoid

As a vegetarian, you’ll steer clear of meat (and whatever else goes along with the type of vegetarian you’ve chosen to be). Instead, you’ll load up on plant-based foods.

Foods to eat

Grains, vegetables, and fruit are all fair game. You’ll also find that the grocery store is stocked with vegetarian options inspired by meat counterparts — veggie burgers, chicken substitutes, and faux ground beef, for instance.

Foods to avoid

Strict vegetarians will avoid poultry, fish, and meat, but there’s some flexibility based on the type of vegetarian you decide to be. You’re able to eat eggs as an ovo-vegetarian, for instance, or fish as a pescatarian.

Health benefits of being a vegetarian

Vegetarian diets are usually rich in fibre, and lower in calories and fat than a non-vegetarian diet. Eating this way, whether for a few meals or for decades, can be beneficial to your health in loads of ways, including:

Weight control

Following a plant-based diet usually means you’ll take in fewer calories overall (so long as you’re not swapping meat for too many unhealthy simple carbs like white bread and pasta). Studies have found vegetarians tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI) on average compared with non-vegetarians.

Heart health

Without meat, your diet will be lower in saturated fat and cholesterol, which ends up reducing your risk of heart disease. Vegetarians tend to have lower levels of LDL “bad” cholesterol.

Hypertension management

Eating a plant-based diet may help lower high blood pressure.

Improve insulin response

Going vegetarian won’t cure type 2 diabetes, but it may help stabilise your blood sugar and make your body more responsive to insulin as long as you’re eating a balanced diet. It could also reduce your risk of other complications related to type 2 diabetes.

Cancer protection

Vegetarians have lower cancer rates than non-vegetarians, suggesting an association between following a plant-based diet and a lower risk of certain types of cancer.

Lower metabolic syndrome risk

Some studies suggest people who fill their plates with plants also tend to have lower rates of metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors that may raise your risk of chronic conditions, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Health risks of being vegetarian

Experts recommend meeting with a registered dietitian who can help you put together a meal plan to make sure you’re sourcing enough appropriate nutrients and sticking to a reasonable amount of calories each day. The dietitian can also advise on foods to eat or supplements to take to avoid deficiencies.

Here are a few nutrients that vegetarians risk being deficient in:

• Protein found in nuts, peanut butter, grains, legumes, eggs, dairy, tofu, tempeh and seitan.

• Iron found in legumes, whole grains, fortified cereals, seeds, and tofu.

• Calcium found in milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, and fortified nondairy milk.

• Zinc can be sourced from dried beans, fortified cereals, nuts, seeds, dairy, and nutritional yeast.

• Vitamin B12 a vitamin found in dairy, fortified breakfast cereal, soy milk, eggs, and nutritional yeast.

• Vitamin D most easily found in cow’s milk.

Because vegetarians don’t usually eat as many calories as non-vegetarians, it may not be a good diet for children and teens who are still growing. Consult your pediatrician to be sure.

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