Graduate of Longwood University in Virginia. Part-time sports journalist covering…
In recent years, the vegetarian diet (x) has garnered widespread popularity among people worldwide. Besides the environmental and ethical benefits of reducing meat in your diet, a well-planned vegetarian diet might also help you with weight loss and lower the risk of contracting chronic diseases.
What is a Vegetarian Diet?
The vegetarian diet involves refraining from any meal derived from meat, poultry and fish.
You may adopt the diet for personal, religious and ethical issues, such as animal rights advocacy. You may also decide to become vegetarian for environmental reasons. You may decide on a vegetarian diet for a better lifestyle.
There are various forms of a vegetarian diet, and each of which varies in the individual form of restrictions:
- Plant-based Diet
It is important to note that there is no actual definition of what makes up a plant-based diet. You may not consider it as a set diet and may describe it as a lifestyle. Most people on a plant-based diet avoid all forms of animal products, from eggs to honey to the most apparent meat and dairy.
- Limited Dairy
Lacto-ovo vegetarians (x) do not eat meat but consume dairy products such as butter, cheese and milk. Lacto-ovo vegetarians, however, eat eggs, but they do not consume meat and dairy products.
- Cooked Vegetables
These are a significant part of a vegetarian diet, but they do not necessarily limit dieters to only vegetables. If you are allergic to certain vegetables, you can still go for grains, fruits and legumes.
- Other Vegetarian Diets
Apart from limiting yourself to vegetables as a vegetarian, you can opt for legumes, fruits, nuts, seeds and grains.
What to Eat as a Vegetarian?
There are so many reasons you might decide to go meatless. But when talking about nutrition, there is just one tricky trade-off — you might deprive your body of some essential nutrients.
To accommodate your body to fill these gaps, you need to have a well-planned diet based on the recommended types of foods to eat as a vegetarian. These include:
- High fiber whole grains and legumes
These choices include bulgur wheat, whole oats, whole wheat, whole-grain rye, millet, whole barley, spelt, kidney beans, lentils, black beans, white beans, French beans and cranberry beans.
These examples range from almonds, peanuts, pistachios, cashew nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts and Brazil nuts.
Why do Vegetarians Eat Fish?
Generally speaking, you don’t include fish or seafood on a vegetarian diet. But some sets of vegetarians do not classify fish or seafood as meat, so they eat it. Pescatarian is the name of this form of diet. (x) They tend to utilize a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet along with eating seafood or fish.
Vegetarian Protein Dish
Since meat is not part of a vegetarian and vegan diet, lack of protein in their bodies is a concern for most vegetarians.
However, you can rectify this concern since we can get proteins even in meat-free diets.
The next meals have enough protein to meet the body’s requirements for a vegetarian:
- Cashew noodles with broccoli and tofu
- Black bean, sweet potatoes and arugula
- Peanut quinoa and baked tofu
- Black bean salad
- Tabbouleh salad and edamame
- Vegan white-bean salad
- Black bean with hummus wrap
- Vegetarian Meals for Meat Eaters
If you are contemplating the idea of consuming less meat, there are possible vegetarian recipes to incorporate into your meals. They include the following tasty options:
- Lentil Bolognese
- Vegetarian korma
- Black bean veggie burgers
- Eggplant parmesan
- Veggies and tofu in peanut sauce
- Artichoke spinach lasagna
Foods to Avoid as a Vegetarian
If you are a vegetarian, you avoid most meat, fish and poultry. You may forego dairy or eggs, but then, that is more like a vegan diet. So, the choices become categorized:
Foods to avoid as a lacto-vegetarian typically include meat, fish, eggs and poultry, as well as any foods that contain them.
Ovo-vegetarians choose to avoid meat, seafood, poultry, and dairy products, but they may consume eggs.
Benefits of being a Vegetarian
There are so many benefits to gain from a vegetarian path. Foods derived from animals contain so much fat and other components that may not benefit the bodily system. In turn, most people choose to feed strictly on vegetarian diets for these reasons. Some benefits include:
- Less Saturated Fat and Cholesterol
One of the significant benefits of following a vegetarian diet is consuming less saturated fats (x) found in meat and other protein diets. Diets that follow vegetables, fermented dairy foods (yogurt) and nuts versus processed grains prove a better diet for your heart health. Foods such as legumes, fruits, vegetables and whole grains are rich in substances known to reduce cholesterol levels in the body.
- Reduces Risk of Chronic Diseases
According to studies, people who base their diets strictly on vegetables and their derivatives tend to have lower risks of developing chronic diseases and lower chances of getting high blood pressure than non-vegetarians are. (x)
- More Vitamin C and E, Fiber, Folic Acid and Phytochemicals
- Lowers Risk of Heart Disease
A vegetarian diet will typically reduce the risk of getting heart disease (x) in an individual by a third. Vegetarians have a 30 percent lower risk of death or hospitalization from heart diseases than people who eat more fish and meat.
- Lowers Risk of Cancer
Studies have shown that consuming a significant amount of vegetables and fruits can help you reduce the risk of developing certain cancers. Studies offer evidence vegetarians suffer less from cancer than non-vegetarians. (x)
Moreover, studies show that eliminating red meat from your diet often reduces the risk of colon cancer. Red meat may cause cancer because of the naturally occurring chemicals formed during the digestion of meat. Research has reported that these chemicals damage the cells lining the bowels and may lead to cancer. (x)
- Helps to Maintain Blood Sugar Levels
Consumption of more fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and whole grains can better improve the control of blood sugar in vegetarians, which can also make the body more responsive to insulin.
Disadvantage of Vegetarianism
Any time you take away a sizable chunk of food options from the diet, there will probably be nutritional deficiencies. And for vegetarians, especially vegans, there is a high possibility of exhibiting a diet low in vitamins D and B12, (x) along with zinc, calcium and riboflavin.
Since vitamin B12 is in animal products only, vegans are primarily prone to be deficient in the nutrient. Therefore, the recommendation is to take supplements or consume foods fortified with these nutrients. (x)
Difficult to Eat Enough Protein as a Vegetarian
One of the principal reasons most people ignore becoming a vegetarian is the fear of less protein consumption and its likely consequences. But interestingly, this concern is not as severe as some perceive it to be.
The more enlightened you become living as a vegetarian, you will discover hidden gems that contain high protein like tofu, tempeh, cottage cheese and other legumes.
The Challenge of Eating Out as a Vegetarian
Sometimes it is pretty tricky for a vegetarian to dine out in restaurants or cafes. Most restaurants base their menus on meats and have limited offers for vegetarians. Unfortunately, removing meat from a meal does not necessarily mean that you are getting a balanced, healthy meal, so eating out might not meet your body’s overall nutritional needs.
More and more restaurants understand this dilemma and cater to more vegetarians and vegans each year. Plant Based News reported vegan menu items are the top trend and that chefs believe consumers are more aware of what they eat more now than ever — from a health perspective. (x)
Repetitive Explanation During Dinner
When you are dining with family and friends, you will always have to ensure that they understand your preference, hopefully before you arrive. That way, there are no awkward moments when you tell a host that you cannot consume the offered foods.
Kindly and proactively inform your host ahead of the meal about your specific preference and inquire if a special dish for you is possible. Better still, you can arrange to arrive with your own entrée.
Issues with Family and Friends
When you choose to change your eating pattern, this modification may lead to some friction in the family. While some members of the family and friends might congratulate you, others might question or overtly challenge your choice. Others may even view your choice as a threat to their style of eating. Like most people, you treat these challenges by explaining to them why you are taking the path of a vegetarian. You try your best to give them the best answers to justify.
You May Have to Learn How to Cook
You can survive in life eating already-prepared foods without meat. Suppose you want to take advantage of the health benefits of becoming a vegetarian. In that case, you will probably have to take your time to open an excellent vegetarian cookbook and start getting creative. If you are not a guru in the kitchen, this choice might seem intimidating.
While cooking might make life easier for you, even if you have never opened any cookbook or you’re someone who doesn’t have a flair for anything in the kitchen, you can still become a vegetarian.
Most cities have health food stores that offer cooking classes to help you adjust to your new lifestyle. These classes are great opportunities to learn how to cook healthy meals and to meet new friends who have similar life-changing goals as yours.
Taking Time to Read Labels
Depending on how committed you are to vegetarianism, (x) you should read the labels. Some food products may contain hidden animal fats and oils.
As this step may seem easy for vegetarians, vegans may need to take a little action further and avoid any products derived from animals. Products such as glues, gelatin, soap, leather clothing and shoes can be a start.
Like any diet, supplementing your body proves beneficial since there is no perfect diet for excellent health. Still, as a vegetarian, you need to be aware of possible deficiencies and challenges to keeping your body healthy. Some include:
- Bone Loss
One of the critical challenges you may face as a vegetarian is the low mineral density in your bones. The result is less consumption of calcium, which you mainly find in animal-based products.
However, calcium-based supplements are possible since they complement the vitamins derived from eating fruits and vegetables, especially vitamin D. Some excellent sources of vegetarian calcium are collard greens, broccoli, kale, figs and oranges. Fortified vegan or vegetarian foods are tofu, oatmeal, nut milk and rice milk. (x)
Those who do not consume meat and other animal products are likely to increase the risk of anemia, (x) a severe condition in which the body cannot produce enough oxygen-bearing red blood cells.
Vegetarians who eliminate meat in their diets are at more significant risks of developing anemia due to iron deficiency. As a vegetarian, you can discover so many sources of iron, such as cashews, sesame seeds, parsley, lemongrass, spinach and almonds. (x)
Also, consider cooking on a cast iron cookware. A study performed on children and females the value of cooking with iron cookware as a solution to iron deficiency proved reasonable and could be a means to add iron to the diet. The research called it a cost-effective and complementary approach to adding iron to the diet. (x)
- Thyroid Issues
Your thyroid gland has a shape of a butterfly located below Adam’s apple at the base of the neck. While it is pretty tiny, it influences most vital organs in the body, including the brain, heart, skin and kidneys.
Being on a vegetarian diet and if you have thyroid issues, you should avoid: (x)
- Soy protein
Soy protein may cause problems if you have hypothyroidism. The plant-based protein may inhibit the absorption of needed hormones. So, if you have a slight thyroid issue, try to avoid eating large amounts of soy daily.
- Cabbage and Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables include kale, cauliflower, bok choy, broccoli and green leafy vegetables. These vegetables cause a substance that competes with your body’s intake of iodine. You may want to talk to your doctor about eating these vegetables if you have a thyroid health concern.
Supplements for Vegetarians
Talk with your physician whenever you start a new supplement. Supplementing your diet with vitamins or minerals as a vegetarian is a healthy and practical idea. Some to consider:
- B Vitamins
As stated earlier, Vitamins B12 and Riboflavin (B2) are mainly in animal products. Vegetarians and vegans often find it challenging to consume enough of these vitamins in their daily diet. (x) With that, the recommendation, if you cut out animal products from your food groups, look into supplementing with Vitamin B12 and Riboflavin products to avoid the adverse effects of a vitamin deficiency.
- Plant Protein
It is a long-standing myth that vegetarians do not receive enough protein in their diets. (x) Recent studies not only show that vegetarians and plant-based eaters receive enough protein but that switching to a plant-based diet can improve athletic performance. (x) And for those looking to add more plant protein to their fitness routine, there is pea, soy and rice protein powder available on the market!
So now that we have laid to rest the myth that vegetarians do not receive enough protein, let’s address a genuine problem experienced by vegetarians: zinc deficiency. The foods highest in natural zinc are, unfortunately, beef and seafood. (x) There are plant sources of zinc available, but they provide small amounts at best. They include seeds, nuts, tempeh and tofu. (x) However, if you want to avoid zinc deficiency, the recommendation is that vegetarians or those on other plant-based diets should supplement with zinc regularly.
Where to Buy Supplements for a Vegetarian Diet?
You can purchase these supplements for a vegetarian diet at BulkSupplements.com. The company is an industry-leading manufacturer and distributor of pure dietary supplements.
BulkSupplements.com is not just a consumer brand. It also supplies pure ingredients to other food and supplement brands to make their products. All products at BulkSupplements.com are manufactured and tested according to current and proper manufacturing practices.
Are you interested in trying any of these supplements mentioned in this article as a possible solution to helping you with your vegetarian diet? Contact BulkSupplements.com to place an order today.
The Bottom Line
A vegetarian diet consists of eating foods like grains, vegetables and fruits while avoiding meat, seafood and fish. Some vegetarians still opt to eat certain animal products such as eggs and butter.
There are many benefits attached to being a vegetarian, including low consumption of saturated fats and low cholesterol in the body. A vegetarian diet also offers tons of essential vitamins while lowering the risk of heart disease.
When you come to terms with being a vegetarian, it may seem daunting, but there are so many sources of information to help your transition. Local health food stores and restaurants offer workshops on preparing vegetarian meals. Online sources abound on the Internet. After all, it’s a learning experience, and the world is your oyster.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Graduate of Longwood University in Virginia. Part-time sports journalist covering the Vegas Golden Knights.