Vegetarian diet: Advantages, dangers, and advice

6 min read
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Jan 25, 2024
Vegetarian diet: Advantages, dangers, and advice

What to know about the vegetarian diet

A vegetarian diet excludes meat and fish, but it does not exclude eggs and dairy products.
It is not necessary to eat meat in order to obtain all the nutrients required for optimal health . There are various reasons why switching to a meatless diet can improve your health .
One explanation for this is that many vegetarians have a tendency to eat a lot of fresh, wholesome, plant-based food s that are strong in fiber and antioxidants. Making the decision to consume no meat often leads to an increase in overall health-conscious decision-making.
A vegetarian diet is thought to have a number of health advantages, according to numerous research.
A vegan or vegetarian diet may lower your risk of heart disease and some types of cancer, according to studies.
In addition to lowering the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes, a plant-based diet may also lower the risk of metabolic syndrome.
A 2019 Gallup poll found that 5% of Americans identify as vegetarians, including 2% of those 55 and older, 8% of those between the ages of 18 and 34, and 7% of those between the ages of 35 and 54.
The lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet , which comprises eggs and dairy products, will be the main topic of this article.

What foods do vegetarians eat?

There are many different wholesome, nutrient-dense food s that can be included in a vegetarian diet; however, what a person eats will depend on their particular diet plan and food preferences.
The general term "vegetarian" refers to a number of different diet s:
  • Dairy and eggs are consumed by lacto-ovo-vegetarians, but they abstain from meat and fish.
  • While they exclude eggs, lacto-vegetarians eat dairy products.
  • Ovo-vegetarians eat eggs but avoid dairy products.
Some vegetarians and vegans will eat fish. This is not a vegetarian diet , but a pescatarian one.
All food s derived from animals are off limits to vegans.
A vegetarian's diet requires careful food selection in order to guarantee that they acquire all the nutrients they need. Supplements could be necessary for some persons.

Benefits

According to a Gallup poll, more and more young people are choosing to follow vegetarian diet s.
They might act in this way due to:
  • It has positive effects on health .
  • It is a choice that is more environmentally friendly.
  • Their worries are about how animals are treated.
  • It's a choice inside a larger lifestyle.
For religious reasons, some people abstain from eating meat and animal products.
Here are a few ways that cutting out meat products can improve one's health .
Weight: A 2016 meta-analysis found that adopting a vegetarian diet may aid in weight loss, at least initially. Longer-term controlled research are necessary for scientists to fully comprehend the potential weight effects of a vegetarian diet.
Cholesterol: Following a vegetarian diet is likely to result in reduced total cholesterol levels, according to a 2015 comprehensive study.
Cancer: Evidence suggesting vegetarians had a lower overall cancer incidence than non-vegetarians was discovered through an analysis of data pertaining to around 70,000 individuals. A diet devoid of meat, according to the authors, may provide some cancer prevention.
Heart health: Researchers in a 2014 study discovered a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease among individuals adhering to a vegetarian diet in India. Similar findings had already been observed in studies conducted in Western countries.
Diabetes: A vegetarian diet may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes in individuals. Reduced consumption of unhealthy fats and increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts could be one explanation for this.
These advantages won't materialize the moment someone gives up meat. In addition to following a vegetarian diet , people should ensure they:
  • Achieve the proper calorie intake.
  • Emphasize on a range of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Restrict their consumption of alcohol and processed meals.
  • Steer clear of extra salt, sugar, and un health y fats.
  • Lead a generally health y lifestyle that includes lots of exercise.
  • Steer clear of smoking.

Sustainability

Experts claim that a plant-based diet is more environmentally friendly than a meat-based diet, in addition to its health advantages.

Tips for getting started

The following advice can help you transition to a vegetarian diet :
  • Learn about the necessary nutrients and how to get them.
  • Consult a nutritionist, your neighborhood health food store, or vegetarian websites for some advice and dish ideas.
  • Create a weekly menu and shopping schedule.
  • Try focusing on a range of meatless meals that offer a full protein to avoid continuing to eat the same things you always did but without the meat.
  • Think about rolling out the change over a month, for example, very gradually.
  • Begin with well-known plant-based dishes like salad and mac & cheese, and gradually expand your menu.
Two reasons why a gradual shift can be more effective are:
It's more likely to turn into a long-term, lifestyle choice.
Abrupt diet ary modifications, like consuming more beans or vegetables, may cause transient digestive issues, like bloating.
A variety of advice is available from the Academy of Nutrition and Diet etics for those who wish to give up meat:
Pick whole grain goods to get your B vitamins, like whole wheat bread, brown or wild rice, and whole grain cereals.
Change up your diet by including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and other items.
Try using soy milk in place of eggs and dairy products, and use them sparingly.
Consult a medical expert regarding supplements, particularly B-12.
Make sure you are getting enough vitamin D, particularly if you don't get much sun exposure.
Make sure " health y" vegetarian snacks don't have a lot of added sugar, salt, or other ingredients by reading the labels.
Whether or not it is vegetarian, keep in mind that fast food and junk food can be unhealthy and high in calories.
They also advise consuming less high-fat and high-sugar food s.

The nutrients you need

According to some scientists, a vegetarian diet is good for people of all ages, but it is important to make the right kind of plans in order to get all of the necessary nutrients.
The following list enumerates the nutrients that an adult who follows a vegetarian diet may be deficient in, as well as some examples of food s that contain those elements.
Nutrient
Iron
Needs for adults aged 19 years and over
8–18 milligrams (mg)
Sources
Pulses: green peas, cashew nuts, spinach, chickpeas, lentils, and tofu. Eat them with vitamin C to aid in the body's iron absorption.
Nutrient
Calcium
Needs for adults aged 19 years and over
1,000–1,200 mg
Sources
Kale, turnip greens, broccoli, yogurt, milk, cheese, and tofu; enriched orange juice. For both women and children around menopause, calcium is crucial.
Nutrient
Protein
Needs for adults aged 19 years and over
46–56 g
Sources
Cereals, nuts, nut butters, eggs, milk, soy milk, seeds, and pulses. People should make sure they consume adequate of all forms of protein throughout the day because vegetable sources could not include complete protein.
Nutrient
Vitamin D
Needs for adults aged 19 years and over
15–20 micrograms (mcg)
Sources
Sunlight and fortified dairy and soy milk and cereals for breakfast.
Nutrient
Vitamin B-12
Needs for adults aged 19 years and over
2.4 mcg
Sources
Dairy products, yeast, eggs, and fortified food s like cereal for breakfast.
Nutrient
Zinc
Needs for adults aged 19 years and over
8–11 mg
Sources
Foods including dairy, soy, almonds, dry beans, and fortified cereals.
Nutrient
Iodine
Needs for adults aged 19 years and over
150 mcg
Sources
Yogurt, milk, cheese, prunes, lima beans, apple juice, green peas, bananas, enriched bread, and enriched macaroni.
To increase their levels of essential minerals, some people might also need to take supplements. Pregnancy and nursing may cause needs to rise.
While a vegetarian diet can help make overall nutritional choices that are healthier, it cannot ensure excellent health. Healthy decisions still need to be made, such as staying away from processed food s with added sugar and excessive fat content.
When a child eats a vegetarian diet , parents and other caregivers should make sure the child is getting the nutrients appropriate for their age and growth stage. Making sure the child isn't merely consuming the family dinner without the meat is one way to do this.
The American Dietary Guidelines for 2015–2020 offer a vegetarian diet pattern that can help people follow a healthy diet. It offers guidance on appropriate dosages of:
  • Veggies with a dark green color.
  • Orange and red veggies.
  • Legumes.
  • Vegetables, including starchy ones.
  • Both refined and whole grains.
  • Dairy goods.
  • Foods high in protein, including nuts, seeds, legumes, eggs, and soy products.
  • Lubricants.
It's possible that vegans require supplements. To find out which are helpful, click this link.

Recipes and ideas

For people who are pressed for time or don't feel comfortable in the kitchen, there are plenty of readymade products accessible. Among them are:
  • Prepared food s (always check labels to select the healthiest ones).
  • Sausages and burgers produced with meat alternatives; these could be heavy in fat and sodium.
Vegetarian and vegan alternatives are now available in most eateries.
But cooking at home allows one to use fresh, health y products and is frequently more cost-effective.

In brief

The Academy of Nutrition and Diet etics states that individuals of all ages can benefit from a well-planned vegetarian or vegan Diet .
Diets high in plants may lower the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and other illnesses. Additionally, compared to animal-based diets, plant-based food s are typically more environmentally sustainable.
It is important to keep in mind, though, that becoming a vegetarian would not instantly make someone healthy. It's critical to plan ahead, incorporate a range of food s, and integrate the diet into a whole healthy lifestyle in order to achieve health benefits.
If someone wants to cut back on meat but thinks it will be too hard, a gradual or partial transition could be a good compromise.
The American Heart Association (AHA) provides advice on cutting back on meat consumption, particularly for those looking to reduce their cholesterol and heart disease risk.