There are many reasons why people choose a vegetarian diet. While, for some people, eating vegetarian foods is a healthier way to live life or to avoid hormones used in animal foods, for many others, vegetarianism is a religious choice, as the history of vegetarianism in India will show. Still, others choose a vegetarian diet because of considerations of animal rights or environmental concerns. Before taking up vegetarianism for good, consider what type of vegetarian you want to be. Decide on the foods you wish to avoid and come up with a plan to ensure that you’re able to get all the nutrients your body requires.
Adopting a vegetarian diet can be the perfect way to stay healthy and happy.
Vegetarian meals comprise a wholesome diet, which is associated with high consumption of fiber, vitamins C and E, folic acid, magnesium, unsaturated fat, and numerous phytochemicals. This results in vegetarians having lower cholesterol, low blood pressure, and reduced risk of heart diseases. Moreover, vegetarian food is easy for the body to digest, takes lesser time to cook, is healthy, and most importantly saves your money. And, there is that tiny benefit for the environment too- vegetables are vital for controlling climate changes too.
Vegan vs Vegetarian Health Benefits
Although there seemingly exists quite a few similarities between vegans and vegetarians (for starters, both choose not to eat meat), there are fundamental differences between these 2 communities of animal rights/ environmental/ healthy lifestyle advocates. Veganism is stricter than vegetarianism. Veganism prohibits the consumption of dairy, eggs, honey, and any other items that are derived from animal products, such as leather and silk. Both veganism and vegetarianism are trending across the world for the right reasons. However, due to the variations of vegetarianism, many people may find it confusing. Let's clear your doubts!
Who is a Vegetarian?
Vegetarians typically consume a range of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, and pulses, as well as “meat substitutes” derived from these food types. Vegetarians do not eat the products or byproducts resulting from animal slaughter. These include:
- Meat, such as beef, pork, and game
- Poultry, such as chicken, turkey, and duck
- Fish and shellfish
- Rennet, gelatin, and other types of animal protein
- Stock or fats that derive from animal slaughter
However, many vegetarians may consume byproducts that do not involve the slaughter of animals, including:
- Dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt
Types of Vegetarianism
The most well-known variations of vegetarianism include:
- Lacto-ovo-vegetarian: This form of vegetarian diet requires its followers to avoid all types of meat and fish. However, the consumption of dairy products and eggs is allowed.
- Lacto-vegetarian: This form of vegetarian diet disallows its followers from eating any meat, fish, or eggs. However, they can consume dairy products.
- Ovo-vegetarian: This form of vegetarian diet requires its followers to avoid eating any meat, fish, or dairy products, although eggs may be consumed.
- Pescatarian: The followers of this form of vegetarian diet avoid all meats except fish and other types of seafood. Due to its unique nature, many people refer to the pescatarian diet as being semi-vegetarian or flexitarian.
Who is a Vegan?
Veganism is a stricter form of vegetarianism. Vegans avoid consuming or using any animal products or byproducts. The Vegan Society defines veganism as a way of living, which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of and cruelty to animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose. Vegans strictly avoid consuming any foods or beverages that contain:
- Fish and shellfish
- Dairy products
- Rennet, gelatin, and other types of animal protein
- Stock or fats that derive from animals
The more devout vegans also put their vegan principles into practice beyond their diet and try to avoid any product that directly or indirectly involves the human use of animals, such as:
- Leather goods
- Soaps, candles, and other products that contain animal fats, such as tallow
- Latex products that contain casein, which comes from milk proteins
- Cosmetics or other products that manufacturers test on animals
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Vegetarian Health Benefits
Several scientific studies show that vegetarian diets provide adequate sources of nutrition, reduce the risk of heart diseases, diabetes, and even cancer. For a better health experience, adopting a vegetarian diet seems to be the popular choice these days. The vegetarian diet is associated with higher fiber, vitamins, folic acid, magnesium, and phytochemicals, which allows vegetarians to stay fitter and enjoy several health benefits over non-vegetarians.
Reduces Risk of Diabetes
According to a research study at George Washington University School of Medicine, a vegetarian diet is easy to digest and is highly nutritious. Vegetarian dishes contain fewer fatty acids, which helps to keep blood sugar under control, thereby reducing the risk of diabetes. A vegetarian diet also provides important benefits for the management of diabetes and curbs the risk of its development.
High Fiber Content
The proper digestion of food requires proper amounts of fiber in foods. Fibers are present in high amounts in fruits and vegetables. Fibers aid in the metabolism of the body and help to eliminate toxins and chemicals that hinder growth. The water base of vegetarian foods helps in maintaining the liquid contents in the body.
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Stable Blood Pressure
A vegetarian diet is low in sodium and fatty acids content. Vegetarian food is cooked in less oil which helps in maintaining lower blood pressure. Compare this to non-vegetarian food, which has to be cooked in more oil, has more sodium, and a high amount of fatty acids - all potential causes of high blood pressure.
Improves Skin Health
Fruits and vegetables are is rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Water-based vegetarian food also helps to remove the toxins from the body. Moreover, some vegetarian foods can be consumed raw which increases the intake of nutrients, resulting in healthier skin.
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Arachidonic acid, which is linked to mood swings and agitation, is absent in vegetarian foods. However, it is found in meat and fish. Not surprisingly, vegetarians have lower levels of neuroticism and tend to experience fewer mood swings. Thank goodness for these small mercies!
Research studies have further revealed that cholesterol level in the vegetarian diet tends to be generally lower when compared to a non-vegetarian diet. This is why vegetarians tend to have a comparatively lower cholesterol level.
Reduces Chances of Cardiovascular Diseases
Non-vegetarian foods, due to their high content of saturated fatty acids, often lead to blockage in arteries. Vegetarian foods, being high in fiber content and with negligible quantities of unhealthy, helps to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Vegetarianism: An Eco-Friendly Choice
This one's every vegetarian's delight when arguing for a vegetarian choice of diet. A vegetarian diet uses less water as plant protein takes less water for its production than meat. For example, an 8 oz chicken breast takes over 542 liters of water to produce. Eating vegetarian dishes means 2.5 times fewer carbon emissions than a meat diet - that is, eating vegetarian food for a year could save the same amount of emissions as taking a small family car off the road for 6 months. We leave you with that (vegetarian) food for thought!