Vegetarian diet, vegetarian food, healthy vegetarian, vegetarian protein

Vegetarian diets have increased greatly in popularity in the last 20 years, with a growing number of studies linking eating meat to a greater risk of heart disease and other degenerative disorders. A balanced vegetarian diet supplies all the vitamins and minerals the body requires and is usually higher in fiber and lower in fat, cholesterol, protein and sugar than the typical Western diet.

Vegetarian diet, vegetarian food, healthy vegetarian, vegetarian proteinVegetarian diet and disease

Many medical studies have shown that a low fat vegetarian diet can lessen the risks of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, kidney stones and other common diseases. Vegetarians usually have lower cholesterol and blood pressure than people who eat meat. Low fat, high fiber diets that include a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans also help to prevent cancer.

The results of a 17-year study involving 11,000 vegetarians were published in the British Medical Journal in 1996. Researchers investigated the links between dietary habits and disease in vegetarians and health conscious people. The results showed that overall, the mortality rate in this group was around half that of the general population, and that daily consumption of fresh fruit was associated with a lower risk of death from any disease.'

The vegetarian diet

Vegetarians choose their diets for reasons of culture, belief or health. There is no single vegetarian eating pattern, and diets differ in the extent to which they avoid animal products. Vegans completely exclude meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy products. Lacto-vegetarians avoid meat, fish, poultry and eggs. Lacto- ovo vegetarians avoid meat, fish and poultry.

The more restricted the diet, the more care must be taken to ensure that all nutrient needs are met. A vegetarian diet does exclude rich sources of several nutrients such as iron, zinc and vitamin B12, and it is important to include plenty of alternative plant sources of the vitamins and minerals commonly found in meat, fish and eggs. Milk is a good source of calcium and riboflavin, and may supply as much as half the daily needs. Other sources, such as dark green leafy vegetables, must be eaten in quite large quantities in order to meet these needs.

A balanced vegetarian diet for a lacto-ovo vegetarian might include all of the following foods in a day:

•   two to three servings of low fat milk or milk products.

•   three to four servings of protein-rich cooked dried beans and peas, seeds or nuts.

•   at least five servings of fruits and vegetables.

•   at least six servings of whole grain breads and cereals.

Vegetarian protein

Proteins are made up of 20 main naturally-occurring amino acids and some other minor ones. Some of these amino acids are essential constituents of the diet as they cannot be made in the body, whereas others are nonessential.

Meat, fish, eggs, milk and soybeans contain all the essential amino acids and are known as complete proteins. Grains, beans, peas, nuts and seeds contain some amino acids and not others, and are called incomplete proteins.
Two incomplete protein foods, eaten together, can provide a complete protein, for example, baked beans on toast or lentils and rice.

A varied vegetarian diet provides adequate amounts of amino acids and usually meets or exceeds requirements for dietary protein. Atypical Western diet is probably too high in protein, and vegetarians often eat less protein than meat eaters. This may partly explain their reduced risk of many degenerative diseases as high protein intakes promote excretion of essential minerals.

Fats in vegetarian diet

Vegetarians often have a higher intake of omega-6 polyunsaturated fats from nuts, seeds and vegetable oils. A high intake of these fats has been linked to an increased risk of cancer, particularly when the omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio becomes too high.
Those who avoid fish may not get adequate amounts of omega-3 oils in their diets and should make sure to include plant sources of omega- 3 oils such as flaxseed oil in the diet. Population studies have shown that, compared to vegetarians, those who eat fish tend to have lower blood pressures and lower blood fat levels.

 
 
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