What Is A Vegetarian Diet?

Vegetable-based diets tend to provide more fiber, less cholesterol, and less saturated fat than meat-based diets. When you eat fiber-rich foods, this fiber sweeps through your intestines and pushes the crap out. Giving your body a constant supply of fiber means you are always cleaning out the pipes. For these reasons, vegetarians tend to be at lower risk for getting several diseases, including heart disease, some forms of cancer (breast and colon), hypertension, gallbladder disease, and type 2 diabetes.

There are several types of vegetarian diets:

  • Lacto-ovo vegetarians include milk products, eggs, and plant foods.
  • Lacto-vegetarians include milk products and plant foods.
  • Ovo-vegetarians include eggs and plant foods.
  • Pescatarians include fish and plant foods.
  • Pollotarians include poultry and plant foods.
  • Vegans include only plant foods and avoid all animal products.
  • Semivegetarians or Flexitarians include primarily plant foods but allow meat, dairy, eggs, poultry and fish on occasion or in small quantities.

Most vegetarian diets are low in or devoid of animal products. Vegetarian diets can be healthful and nutritionally sound if they’re carefully planned to include essential nutrients, otherwise it may result in other nutrient deficiencies.

Here are the nutrients and their sources to consider in a vegetarian diet:

Protein: Plant proteins can provide enough of the essential and non-essential amino acids, as long as sources of dietary protein are varied and caloric intake is high enough to meet energy needs. Whole grains, legumes, vegetables, seeds and nuts all contain both essential and non-essential amino acids. And soy protein has been shown to be equal to proteins of animal origin.

Iron: Dried beans, spinach, enriched products, brewer's yeast and dried fruits are all good plant sources of iron instead of getting it from red meat, liver and egg yolk, which are all high in cholesterol.

Vitamin B-12: Vitamin B12 occurs naturally only in animal products, so you'll want to stock up on a variety of B12-fortified (not enriched) foods like breakfast cereals, fortified soy beverages, some brands of nutritional brewer's yeast as well as a B12 supplement.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D is sometimes added to soymilk. Vitamin D can also be made in the body when the sun shines on your skin. Vegans who don’t get much sunlight may need a supplement.
Calcium: Vegetable greens such as spinach, kale and broccoli, and some legumes and soybean products, are good sources of calcium from plants.

Zinc: Good plant sources of zinc are whole grains, wild rice, wheat germ, bran, legumes, and nuts.
What do you think? Ready to go vegan?

photo: abcnews.com

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