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Contrary to other diets, often linked to fashion phenomena, the vegetarian diet is the result of personal convictions and is a reflection of the lifestyle of those who follow it. What exactly do you mean by vegetarian diet and what does it consist of? Let’s make the point.

There are more and more those who follow a vegetarian diet. The reasons are various: the concern for health diseases (mad cow, bird flu, foot-and-mouth disease), the continuous increase in meat prices but also, and above all, the respect of animals and the environment.

A vegetarian recipe to lick your fingers!

The origin

The vegetarianism appeared in its present form only in the nineteenth century, but it is not a recent invention: various philosophical currents (Hindu origin, Greek or Christian) supporting it for centuries. The difference lies in the fact that, in the past, this was adopted for philosophical or religious reasons while today the motivations are mainly ethical, sanitary, ecological or taste.

The different types of vegetarian diet

There is not just one vegetarian diet but there are different forms, depending on the type of food allowed and excluded …

  • The ovo-lacto-vegetarian diet (the most widespread) consists in not eating animal products but allowing foods of animal origin such as eggs or dairy products;
  • The lacto-vegetarian diet excludes all animal products except dairy products;
  • The ovo-vegetarian diet excludes all animal products except eggs;
  • The peach-vegetarian diet excludes only meat and authorizes fish;
  • The vegetal diet (the most restrictive) excludes all animal products.

Vegetarian Diet

Nutritional characteristics

  • The most widespread vegetarian diet, which is the ovo-lacto-vegetarian diet (with eggs and dairy products), contains all the food groups and is therefore healthy and balanced. Eggs and dairy products contain proteins in correct proportions and their consumption allows to prevent deficiencies that could be linked to the absence of fish and meat. As for micronutrients, eggs, cereals and legumes contain iron; dairy products, calcium; cereals, especially if wholemeal, the B vitamins; fruit and vegetables, vitamin A in the form of provitamin A; eggs and dairy products, vitamin D.
  • The most restrictive vegetarian diets, and especially the vegan, will incur verse deficiencies, especially in protein, amino acids, iron, zinc, vitamins A and D. Those who practice a diet of this type must be careful to do no harm to their health.

What are the advantages of a vegetarian diet?

Provided it provides the body with all the elements it needs, the vegetarian diet has numerous health benefits …

  • By excluding meat, the vegetarian diet helps to reduce the risk of cardio-vascular diseases caused by saturated fats contained in the meat itself. Vegetarians generally have a lower cholesterol rate than the rest of the population, due to the absence of meat in their diet.
  • If well practiced, the vegetarian diet is rich in fiber, thanks to the consumption of vegetables, whole grains and legumes. This allows to fight against constipation, intestinal transit disorders, diabetes and colon cancer.
  • Eliminating the meat eliminates the risk of contracting infections and diseases due to viruses and bacteria contained in the meat itself.
  • Avoiding eating meat also avoids ingesting antibiotics. Every year an average consumer of meat ingest almost 9 grams of antibiotics without his knowledge, which is equivalent to four complete antibiotic therapies. Regular ingestion through the meat of these medicines causes the ineffectiveness of antibiotics if they really need it. Moreover, in many cases, foods of animal origin transmit antibiotic-resistant bacteria to humans, against which man is now unable to defend himself. These risks, often underestimated, have been brought to light, which has raised the alarm bell.
  • Vegetarians have a BMI (body mass index) below average and therefore run less risk of being overweight. This is because a diet like the vegetarian one leads to rationalizing the energy supply and the choice of food.

So it is very possible to be vegetarian and healthy, as long as the vegetarian diet is balanced. On the contrary, vegetarian people pay no attention to their diet, but they have a healthy lifestyle that helps them to feel good.

Balanced type day

  • Breakfast: milk or dairy products, whole grains and fresh fruit.
  • Lunch: eggs, cereals and legumes, salad and dairy products.
  • Dinner: cereals and vegetables, dairy products, fresh fruit and whole meal bread.

To satisfy their protein needs, it is enough to eat 3 or 4 dairy products every day, eggs (except in the case of cholesterol problems) and at least one cereal dish (wheat, spelled, oats, rye, barley) associated with legumes (lentils, soy, peas, beans). The rest of the food must consist of fruit, vegetables, nuts (walnuts, almonds) and bread.

To avoid deficiencies and increase the supply of proteins, minerals and vitamins, it is possible to resort to food supplements (spirulina, brewer’s yeast, wheat germ, etc.), sold at the supermarket or in organic shops.

Of course, before you change your diet you should contact your doctor. The vegetarian diet is not recommended during pregnancy and lactation. In addition, pediatricians advise against following this type of diet to children, due to the shortcomings that could result in the delicate phase of growth.

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