You have heard that a vegetarian diet is healthier and can help you live longer – yes, it is true and there is ample scientific evidence. What is a vegetarian diet? There are two types of vegetarians – while both do not eat any animal meat — the more common group is known as lacto-ovo vegetarians who will also eat animal by-products such as eggs and cheese. The vegans do not eat any of the by-products.
An evidence-based review shows that a vegetarian diet is associated with lower risk of death of ischemic heart disease, lower risk of hypertension, diabetes and cancer compared to non-vegetarian. A typical vegetarian diet includes foods that are loaded with nutrients that are healthy for us. But just avoiding meat does not automatically make for a good diet plan and may even work against you. If you decide to do vegetarian, here’s how to make the best of your dietary choice.
- Protein, fatty acids and other nutrients found in animal meat or by-products are also very important for your body that may be lacking in a vegetarian diet – like protein to build muscles. Your body needs these amino acids and nutrients and those on vegetarian diets especially vegans must eat soy protein – the only plant based protein that is as complete to replace what you are missing by skipping meat protein.
- Apart from adding soy protein, if you are starting on a vegetarian diet, it is important to look at what you are eating overall to make sure that you have adequate nutrition. Supplements that contain zinc, iodine, calcium and vitamin D and B-12 can help.
- If you are not careful, vegetarian diet may even cause you to gain weight. To achieve your weight loss goals, you should not substitute your craving for meat with other high fat food like french fries & cheese or other vegetarian high-fat products.
- Most vegetarians like to snack on nuts. While most nuts are nutritious, they are also high in fat and loaded with calories. This is great if you are packing for a long hike — but not great if you are watching TV at home!
Yes, there is ample scientific evidence to argue for a healthier vegetarian diet – whether it is the stricter vegan diet, or the lacto-ovo. You should read up on the dietary essentials of being a vegetarian to make sure that your game plan gives you all the nutrition, supplements and vitamins that you need. Read this paper: “Position of the American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian Diets” published in the Journal of American Dietetic Association.