YOUR ULTIMATE GUIDE TO A VEGETARIAN DIET AND WHY 18% OF THE WORLD’S POPULATION MADE THE SWITCH
Going on a vegetarian diet is becoming more popular all over the world. In fact, some studies suggest that as much as 18% of the total world population are vegetarians. This gradual global switch to vegetarianism is driven by increasing access to healthier food alternatives.
What Is A Vegetarian Diet?
The vegetarian diet removes any meat, fish, and poultry products from the diet. People may abstain from these foods for several reasons such as religious, cultural, personal, ethical, and environmental factors. Some even switch to a vegetarian diet as a statement against the rising global climate or the excessive use of natural resources in farming practices.
Different Types of Vegetarian Diet
Several vegetarian diets are available for those who want to try eating healthier. Some completely remove any kind of meat and meat by-products from their diet, while others are more forgiving and include some type of meat in their diets.
When choosing a vegetarian diet for yourself, make sure that your daily nutritional needs are still being met by the food that you are consuming. The different types of vegetarian diets are
A vegan diet completely removes all animal products and by-products from their diet. This includes abstaining from honey, eggs, gelatin, and other such materials harvested from animals. They often also do not use any type of leather, wool, or silk in their lifestyle.
2. Lacto Vegetarian
“Lacto” is a prefix that refers to cow’s milk and other dairy products. It is also derived from the Latin word for milk, lac. Lacto vegetarianism excludes all types of meat but retains dairy products such as yogurt, milk, cheese, and ice cream in the diet. Most people who have Lacto vegetarian diets are from cultures and followers of religions from the Indian subcontinent like Jainism, Buddhism, and Buddhism.
3. Ovo Vegetarian
“Ovo” is a prefix that refers to eggs and is derived from the Latin word ovum meaning egg. Ovo vegetarian diets do not include meat and any of its by-products aside from eggs. The use of eggs in the Ovo vegetarian diet can vary from any type and preparation of egg, from plain sunny-side fried eggs to baked goods that require eggs in their recipes.
4. Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian
This is the most traditional kind of vegetarian diet. The Lacto-Ovo vegetarian diet removes any kind of red and white meat including fish but does not exclude milk nor eggs in their diet.
5. Pescatarian / Pescetarian
Pescatarian is derived from the Latin word pesce which means fish. A pescatarian diet excludes all red and white meat but retains all types of fish meat. However, the inclusion of dairy products and eggs can vary at the discretion of those who have this type of diet.
Also known as a pollo-vegetarian diet. Pollo comes from the Spanish word pollo meaning chicken. A Pollotarian diet removes beef, pork, and fish but allows the consumption of chicken and other fowl such as quail and turkey.
The prefix flexi indicates a more flexible vegetarian diet compared to other much stricter vegetarian diets that completely remove certain foods from one’s diet. A flexitarian diet can make allowances for nutritional needs that need to be met. It focuses more on consuming more whole plant foods and the amount of sugar and processed food one eats.
Depending on what vegetarian diet you want to switch to, make sure that your body’s daily health requirements are always met with the appropriate food and supplements.
What’s The Difference Between Vegetarian and Vegan?
A vegetarian diet removes any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish, and animal by-products from their diet. Its main focus is on the consumption of whole plants and plant-based foods. The inclusion of dairy and egg products will depend on what specific kind of vegetarian diet one decides to participate in.
A vegan diet is the strictest kind of vegetarianism. The Vegetarian Society defines this as a deliberate exclusion of all the products of animal exploitation and cruelty for food or any other product or purpose. This includes materials and products such as
For an easier understanding, Vegan is a more specific type of Vegetarian, while Vegetarians can either be Vegan or not.
Benefits of Going Vegetarian
Switching to a vegetarian diet still isn’t completely easy. Unhealthy food can be tempting. However, eating vegetarian food can have positive impacts on your health and the environment.
1. Higher nutrients
Vegetarian diets provide more antioxidants and fiber. It is also richer in potassium, magnesium, and folate, including vitamins A, C, and E.
2. Better weight loss and management
Removing meat and consuming whole grain products and vegetables and fruits help in lowering body mass index (BMI). Even when the vegetarian diets aren’t strictly followed, results are always positive and compare better to normal Western diets that include meat.
3. Lower blood sugar levels
Eating a vegetarian diet can increase the body’s insulin sensitivity and help manage blood sugar. It also helps lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
4. Improved kidney function
A plant-based diet and non-meat proteins help reduce the risk of poor kidney function.
5. Protection against certain cancers
Regularly including legumes in a person’s diet can decrease the risk of colorectal cancer by as much as 9 to 18%. Eating 7 portions of vegetables and fruits can also lower the chances of dying from cancer by up to 15%. Soy products offer buffer protection against breast cancer. Studies suggest that this reduced cancer risk can stem from eliminating processed, smoked, and burnt meats which can introduce carcinogens in the body.
6. Lower risk of heart disease
A vegetarian diet ensures that the body regularly has fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, and fiber that help reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure by up to 75%. This also reduces the risk of dying from heart disease by up to 42%. This reduces blood sugar, bad cholesterol, and total cholesterol levels in the body.
7. Reduced pain from arthritis
Studies have shown that patients with arthritis who are on vegetarian diets have higher energy levels and improved functioning compared to those who also have arthritis but are on a different diet. A vegetarian diet improves the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis which include pain, joint swelling, and morning stiffness.
Based on a study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO), plant-based diets are more sustainable and environmentally friendly than meat-based diets. According to the WHO, 20-30% of global greenhouse gas emissions are produced by food production industries all over the world and up to 66% of global water supplies are used on these practices.
Global commercial farming practices are also harmful to the environment and animals. Land conversion for animal pasture and ranches affects the amount of land we have left for farming. Not to mention that there are remaining inhumane farming practices that overfeed and overcrowd animals at farms.
A kilogram of beef can have an equivalent carbon emission of up to 71kg which includes cow feed, farmland, and the methane a cow produces in proportion to the amount of beef it can yield. Meanwhile, plant-based foods made from soy and potato starch only emit up to 3.2kg of emissions per kilo.
According to a study conducted by The Environmental Working Group, the following are the most sustainable foods that have the lowest impact on our environment:
- whole grains
- refined grains
- added sugars
- red meat
- processed foods
Are There Downsides To Vegetarian Diets?
A well-planned vegetarian diet is more than enough to keep you healthy and strong.
However, meat, fish, and poultry are our body’s main sources of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Our bodies also need micronutrients such as zinc, selenium, iron, and vitamin B12 are also mostly found in animal products.
When switching to a vegetarian diet, make sure that your body still receives the right amounts of daily nutrients. Vegetarians are at a higher risk of nutrient deficiencies should they fail to plan their meals properly.
One way to ensure that this does not happen is to include essential nutrients by taking additional supplements.
Another possible downside to switching to a vegetarian diet is the fact that vegetarian food is not yet widely available and accessible. There are specialty vegan restaurants and grocers in urbanized areas but it may become hard to find dedicated vegan produce in hard-to-reach areas. However, this is slowly changing thanks to online vegan shops that deliver directly to you.
What Foods Are Vegetarian?
Depending on what type of vegetarian diet you plan on having, it should always include a diverse and well-balanced mix of these food categories to ensure your meat-free diet remains healthy and nutritious:
1. Fruits - vitamin C-rich fruits like apples, bananas, berries, oranges, etc.
2. Vegetables - a hearty mix of leafy greens and root vegetables
3. Grains - whole wheat grains and rice as a source of fiber and carbohydrates
4. Legumes - a variety of different lentils, beans, peas, and chickpeas
5. Nuts - excellent sources of protein and calcium like Almonds, cashews, and chestnuts
6. Seeds - these introduce additional fiber to your diet like flaxseeds and chia
7. Healthy fats - always look for low or zero trans fat found in olive oil and avocados
8. Proteins - Tempeh, tofu, seitan, natto, nutritional yeast, spirulina, eggs, dairy products
It is important to consider your current state of health when deciding which kind of vegetarian diet you should be following and to determine what supplements you will have to take daily to ensure your body doesn’t become deficient in any nutrients.
Where Can I Get Vegetarian Food?
It’s always best to make your vegetarian meals as healthy as possible with local produce from your nearest farmers market. This reduces the “food miles” that consume energy via transporting food for long distances and uses less packaging.
Making sure to incorporate foods that are in season in your area is also a good way to support local farmers, lessen the amount of land needed to grow out-of-season crops and a great way to include a variety of food in your meals.
You can also look for online shops that are stocked with vegan-friendly products and supplements that can help you along your journey towards eating and living healthier. And if you’re missing the taste of meat, there are plant-based meat-free meat substitutes available like Unmeat. Unmeat is soy-based and has four variants to make your meals more exciting without making them unhealthy. You can get Unmeat and other vegan-friendly products and supplements at primelifewellness.co.
Begin Your Vegan Adventure Today!
Whether you choose to become a strict vegan or just try out a flexitarian diet, always make sure that you are getting your body’s daily nutritional requirements and needs. Get the right amount of calories and nutrients your body needs to make the most out of your vegetarian diet. And remember to take the right supplements for you to avoid getting any vitamin, mineral, and nutrient deficiencies.
Making the switch to a vegetarian diet isn’t always easy. You will have to plan your meals and find a trustworthy source for your ingredients and produce. And when you get it right, you won’t just be healthier, your choices will also make the world better.
This sample is a simulation. However, having a mandatory number of bulleted lists and numbered lists has proven a great way to ensure these elements are not omitted, except in cases where their implementation is impossible or counterproductive.
Remember to balance your fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Limit your intake of processed foods and alcohol. Avoid sources of trans fat, added sugars, and salts. You can get the most benefits from becoming a vegetarian by making your lifestyle healthier as well. Exercising, meditating, eating healthier, and avoiding vices like alcohol and smoking will make your vegetarian diet do the most for you and your body.