A vegetarian diet is not a trend or a temporary lifestyle. People have been fans of this eating style since ancient times, and many more still practice it today. But this type of diet is still subject to criticism. What’s vegetarianism really? How does it impact your health? The FizzUp trainer sheds some light on these questions.
Vegetarianism is an eating style that excludes meat, fish and seafood. Around the world, it is estimated that 10% of the population has taken up this eating style. Yet a large portion of the population is flexible, depending on how a culture defines vegetarianism. In other words, these people have already limited how many animal products they eat and end up eating a mostly vegetarian diet.
Food scandals, animal cruelty, the greediness of the food-processing industry, the desire to get in better health and start eating in a more environmentally friendly way are all reasons for this trend and why people want to change how they eat.
There are many different types of vegetarian diets. Some are more permissive whereas others are stricter. With lacto-ovo vegetarianism, you’re allowed to eat eggs and dairy products. With lacto vegetarianism, you’re only allowed to eat dairy products. Semi-vegetarianism is pretty permissive since it excludes only meat and doesn’t prohibit fish, seafood and even poultry. And finally, veganism is a more restrictive diet because it only allows foods that come from plants (fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and beans).
Of course we had to cover veganism. For vegans, their diet isn’t just a diet, it’s also a more general approach to living. Refusing to contribute to animal exploitation is their main course of action, which turns into a lifestyle and way of eating that’s all their own. A vegan doesn’t consume any animal products. So that means no honey or clothes made of leather, animal skins or wool or even cosmetics tested on animals.
The way you eat has a significant impact on your health and wellness. It’s important to note that although any food is replaceable, the same can’t be said for nutrients. Eating a balanced diet is essential if you want to satisfy your nutritional needs: 40-55% carbohydrates, 28-38% fats and 15-30% protein. The more varied your diet is with a wide range of food choices, the easier it is for you to meet your needs. Whatever your type of vegetarian diet, as soon as it limits what you can and can’t eat, it makes it more difficult for you to get the nutrients you need. But just because it’s more difficult doesn’t mean it’s impossible!
As soon as you start talking about vegetarianism, many concerns arise, the main one being the question of dietary deficiencies.
Due to a lack of meat and dairy products in their diets, vegetarians are more likely to suffer from protein, vitamin B12, iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin D and omega-3 deficiencies.
You can treat a protein deficiency caused by consuming little to no meat by eating legumes, tofu, nuts, seeds, nutritional yeast and grain products. You can also avoid a lack of iron by eating enough navy beans, red beans, lentils or even chickpeas. Calcium can be found in almonds, kale, broccoli or calcium-fortified beverages. The list goes on. In short, if you manage this kind of diet well and make sure to choose your foods wisely, it’s totally possible for you to eat a healthy and balanced diet without suffering from any deficiencies.
In addition to keeping your diet balanced, many studies even claim that a well-planned vegetarian diet can have many health benefits.
Interestingly, vegetarians feel fuller because they eat foods full of fiber from legumes, fruits and other grains. This means that it helps prevent obesity. A 2013 study conducted as part of the EPIC project (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition) also showed that vegetarians have a lower BMI and lower cholesterol levels. They run less of a risk of developing certain cardiovascular diseases than non-vegetarians.
So, everything is matter of balance… A vegetarian diet can definitely meet your nutritional needs and can even have beneficial effects on your health. But, because they tend to be restrictive, they require more time and money for you to get all the essential nutrients you need to be healthy. Whatever type of diet you choose, be it vegetarian or not, remember to always eat in moderation and keep your diet balanced.