In the wake of the FDA’s recent rejection of certain anti-obesity pills it’s worth looking at healthier and more natural alternatives to chemical quick fixes. A balanced and well planned vegetarian diet is a very healthy way to meet your daily nutritional needs.
For many people a vegetarian diet is a life choice, a personal commitment based on moral, ethical, religious or cultural codes. Others choose plant based diets because amongst other things they reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity, cancer and arthritis.
Like any dietary changes it is important to do some homework first. Always consult your doctor and ask them to perform a general health check before switching your diet. A vegetarian diet needs some planning so you’ll need to understand what the human body requires and where those things come from.
One of the biggest problems facing vegetarians is the need for iron. Meat, especially beef, generally contains a lot of protein and iron. Iron intake is important as without it you will quickly fall foul of anaemia which leads to loss of energy, headaches, insomnia, breathlessness, loss of appetite and pallor.
Good vegetarian sources of iron include spinach, apricots, chick peas and baked beans.
The body needs a healthy balance of carbohydrates, protein and fats. Fats can be found in nuts, seeds, tofu, avocado and cheese (although some vegetarians also avoid dairy products).
Carbohydrates are found in most root vegetables and some fruit including apples, pears, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes and butternut squash.
Protein is, according to some dieticians, actually not such a heavy requirement for humans as it gives only a quick burst of energy as opposed to carbs which are slow burning. However, to balance the diet proteins can be found in soybeans, lentils, black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, spinach and broccoli.
Different types of vegetarian diets
There are three different categories for vegetarian diets, ranging from simply ‘meat free’ to absolute exclusion of all animal products.
Lacto-ovo vegetarian diets do not include meat, fish or poultry but do include eggs and dairy produce.
Lacto-vegetarian diets do not include meat, eggs, fish, poultry or any foods containing them. They do however include dairy produce like milk, cheese, yogurt and butter.
Vegan diets are the most difficult to maintain as they exclude all meat, fish, poultry, honey and dairy produce. They also steer clear of clothing made from animal produce such as wool, hide and leather as well as products that use gelatine.
Another semi-vegetarian diet is known as the Flexitarian which is plant based but with the option to eat organic or free range meat in small measures on occasion.
Disclaimer: This article is only an informative guideline and should not be used as a basis for life changes without first seeking medical counsel or advice from a professional dietician.
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