A vegetarian is someone who doesn’t eat meat, so how can they be healthy? They’re missing out on several nutrients, especially protein from avoiding it. Well, there are plenty of ways that they can prevent deficiencies from occurring and being a vegetarian may be one of the best choices one can make for their health.
There are numerous “forms” of vegetarians. There’s the “far” vegetarian who simply avoids red meat and the quasi vegetarian who avoids red meat and poultry. Individuals who omit meat, poultry and fish are called lacto-ovo vegetarians, and lacto-vegetarians omit all of those and eggs. A vegan omits all animal products. They are considered the most extreme vegetarians. There are many reasons as to why people become vegetarians. It’s not only a diet, it’s a way of life for some. It is often part of a value system that influences a variety of attitudes and behaviors. People may decide to become one because there is a lack of availability or they cannot afford animal products. They could be animal lovers or have religious beliefs that prohibit them from eating them. Some desire to preserve the world’s food supply, to have better health, or may simply just not like the taste of meat. Whatever the reason, they are actually doing their bodies some good.
Meat is high in fat and cholesterol. In fact, all cholesterol comes from animal products. Vegetarians drastically reduce their cholesterol intake, which is good for their hearts. Because they do not eat as much fat, they are decreasing their risk for obesity, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, chronic bronchitis, gallstones and kidney stones. These are all popular conditions in today’s overweight population. Vegetarians stray themselves away from the risks, ultimately prolonging their lives.
One might think that vegetarians do not have any options for what they can eat. This is not true because they do, in fact, have plenty of choices. There is even a separate food for them, which recommends that they get 6 or more servings of grains, 5 or more servings of legumes and nuts, 4 or more servings of vegetables, 2 or more servings of fruits, 2 or more servings of fats and oils, and 1-2 servings of sweets a day. If they eat a variety from these six groups, they won’t even feel like they’re missing anything.
Animal foods are a major source of complete proteins, vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, riboflavin, zinc and essential fatty acids (EPA and DHA). Restrictive vegetarians are at risk for deficiencies in these nutrients. What they need to learn is how to complement their proteins. Examples of complementary protein meals/snacks are:
Protein will not be a problem if a vegetarian eats their meals like this. If it does become a problem, they might want to consider a supplement. If nutrient intake becomes a concern, vegetarians may be recommended to take a multivitamin or a specific supplement of a vitamin they’re lacking.
Research has found that vegetarians tend to be health conscious. They are likely to avoid alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. Vegetarians are also known to take part in regular exercise. Going on a vegetarian diet is simply a choice—but it might be one of the healthiest choices out there.