Is vegan diet all hype and no substance?
What is vegetarianism?It refers to the practice of abstaining from eating meat and animal products. Vegetarianism is a broad term that covers a wide range of dietary choices. In general, a vegetarian diet excludes meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, and animal-based foods such as gelatine and honey.
Different types of vegetarian diet followersA ‘vegetarian’ diet is not considered a homogenous entity in the rest of the world as it is in India. In contrast, in our country a vegetarian does not or is not expected to consume meat, fish or egg. Also, we tend to make no distinction between a vegetarian and a vegan. Let’s look at some of the distinctions between different types of ‘vegetarians’: Lacto-vegetarian
- Yes – Milk, cheese, yogurt and butter
- No – Seafood, meat, poultry and eggs in any form
- No meat, poultry, seafood, eggs and dairy in any form
- Follows a vegan diet and opposes the use of animals for other purposes
- Yes – Eggs
- No – Meat, poultry, fish and dairy products
- Yes – Fish
- No – Meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs
Health benefits of a vegan diet
- Protects against cancer: Vegetables, which contain phytochemicals, and fruits protect against lung, mouth, oesophagus, and stomach cancers.
- Fights depression: Intake of phytochemicals is beneficial for mental health.
- Provides energy: A vegetarian diet is easy on our body because it requires less energy to digest food. Unclogged clear arteries means you are never starved for oxygen.
- Detoxifies body: Vegetables contain fiber, which helps detoxify the body. This means less chance of developing constipation or haemorrhoids.
- Improves bone health: Our skeletal system becomes weak when you are calcium deficient because our body draws calcium from our bones to make up the deficit. Dark green vegetables like broccoli and milk are a good source of calcium and also help the body to absorb calcium.
- Helps avoid food-borne diseases: Protein-rich food such as meat and seafood tend to be the causes of diseases such as Salmonella and E. coli
- Manages symptoms of menopause: Food like soy, dates, garlic, and olives contain phytogens that help control the levels of oestrogen and progesterone. Weight control during menopause is a problem for women and a low-fat, fibre-rich diet is helpful.
Should you turn vegetarian?The decision of whether or not to become a vegetarian is a personal choice. The benefits to adopting a vegetarian diet includes healthier, longer life, and lower risk of heart disease. However, there are a few negative effects which include a reduction in protein and iron intake.
Does a vegetarian diet meet all your nutritional needs?Studies demonstrate that people can get most of their nutrients from a vegetarian diet. However, it is important to understand that vegetarianism does not necessarily mean you automatically get the required nutrients, minerals, proteins, and fibres. Vegetarians need to make sure they include grains, legumes, nuts, and vegetables in their diet.
Turning Vegetarian? Read ThisWe want to point out that overindulgence even on a vegetarian diet can be harmful. It isn’t uncommon to see people gorging on processed foods like pastry and desserts, which can do more harm than an equivalent meat-based diet. Only a balanced vegetarian diet can benefit you. If you are new to a vegetarian diet, you must consult a nutritionist to design a diet that provides you with sufficient protein, iron, calcium, zinc, vitamin B12, and vitamin D:
- Protein: Nuts, grains, legumes
- Iron: Legumes, whole grains, cereals, and seeds
- Calcium: Milk and Yogurt
- Zinc: Nuts and seeds
- Vitamin B12: Dairy, soy milk
- Vitamin D: Cow’s milk, sunlight