What is a vegetarian diet?
A vegetarian diet is a popular food fad among health enthusiasts where practitioners do not consume meat, poultry or seafood.
Numerous celebrities and fitness experts have ascribed their fit and healthy bodies to using this diet.
The vegetarian customs have led to the development of some of the most delicious meat-less recipes in the world which are still very healthy. Before becoming a vegetarian, understanding what it entails can be beneficial before making this life change.
So what can you really eat as a vegetarian?
Most people confuse the concept of the vegan and vegetarian ways of life. A vegan’s lifestyle only includes a plant-based diet where no animal products can be consumed. On the other hand, a vegetarian lifestyle is primarily a plant-based diet but some animal products can actually be consumed by vegetarians. Some of the popular vegetarian foods include:
- Pulses or legumes such as beans, lentils, and peas. Beans can include kidney beans, butter beans and runner beans while peas can include garden peas and black-eyed peas among others.
- Vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, celery, and carrots among others.
- Nuts such as peanuts, macadamia nuts, cashew nuts etc.
- Fruits such as pineapple, mango, apples, grapefruit etc.
- Seeds such as pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and sesame seeds among other types.
- Dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheeses.
Types of Vegetarians
There are some categories within the vegetarian lifestyle that are dependent on some dietary choices. These types include:
- Lacto-ovo vegetarians: These are vegetarians that can eat all the vegetarian foods that have been listed in the section above. This includes dairy products and eggs.
- Lacto vegetarians: These are vegetarians who can eat everything else but avoid eating eggs.
- Ovo vegetarians: These vegetarians can eat everything except for dairy products.
Reasons to go Vegetarian
There are many reasons that people elect to go vegetarian. Aside from simple diet choices, there are some deeper factors that can influence an individual’s dietary choices that are listed below:
- Most people elect to use a vegetarian diet due to the potential health benefits that they can get. The effects on health will be further discussed in the next section of this article.
- Some religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism do not believe in the consumption of animals. Hindus do not believe in the consumption of animals due to their belief in non-violence and the concept of ahimsa which refers to the lack of desire to kill or slaughter. The lack of belief in animal slaughter makes Hindus (majority of Indians) unable to consume meat and fish. Most Hindus ascribe to the lacto-ovo vegetarian lifestyle where they still consume eggs and milk.
- In Buddhism, it is important to understand that the diets vary according to the branch of Buddhism. Many Buddhists choose not to eat animals especially animals that are specifically killed for them to consume due to the belief in non-violence.
- The concept of animal rights is now more mainstream in the society more than ever. There are numerous animal welfare organizations that educate the public how animals are treated in farms as well as during the slaughtering process. Because of the heightened awareness of animal rights, many people choose a vegetarian lifestyle which they are sure does not harm any animals.
- The belief in animal protection is not really about consuming meat but rather the methods through which the meat is sourced and distributed. The chemicals used on these animals is another issue that can impact your decision of becoming a vegetarian.
- If you are a true animal lover, then becoming a vegetarian is a simple change to accomplish.
Health Benefits of Going Vegetarian
One of the reasons that vegetarianism is very popular is that it has many health benefits for practitioners. Some of the benefits include:
- Prevention of cancers. The low calorie and highly nutritive diet has been linked to lower rates of cancers among vegetarians in comparison to meat eaters. High-fat diets have been linked with instances of breast cancer.
- Prevention or management of heart diseases. This is one of the most popular effects of using a vegetarian diet as it is very low in cholesterol. The high fiber diet combined with a healthier lifestyle means that you can prevent heart diseases.
- Reversing or managing diabetes. For the same reasons listed for heart disease, the diet lowers the blood sugar level and enable diabetes sufferers to live a healthier lifestyle.
- Other health concerns that can benefit from the vegetarianism include blood pressure, kidney stones, atherosclerosis and osteoporosis. The high fiber, low calorie and nutritious diet are perfect in helping individuals to deal with these medical issues.
Differences between Veganism and Vegetarianism
As mentioned previously, there is a real difference between veganism and vegetarianism.
First, it is important to note that veganism is a branch of vegetarianism. The primary difference is that vegans avoid all animal products in the diet. In comparison, vegetarianism does not have such strict regulations about diet. In fact, vegans are actually very strict in terms of using animal products so that even in their daily lives, no animal products are present.
Vegetarians do not really have restrictions about using animal products as long as they are not being consumed.
Vegetarianism is a great option if you are looking for a diet with health benefits and simple recipes.