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The Vegetarian DietObesity causes a lot of problems for people all over the world. There are always the health issues to concern yourself with, but there is also the physical appearance which a lot of people value even more than their health and, in some cases, can cause psychological problems such as depression. That is why so many of the people that are overweight are always trying new things that will melt the pounds away. There is always another miracle gadget or pill coming out that is supposed to work wonders, but none of them ever do. It seems that the tried & true way of dieting and exercising still remains the best method for weight loss. But even so, things are still problematic since there are countless different diets to try so it can be tricky finding the one that works best for you. Skipping from one to another can actually be damaging for your system so it would be advised that you select one that you like and stick with it. That is why you should take a good look at the vegetarian diet.
- Strictly speaking, vegetarianism is not a diet; it is more of a lifestyle. In the broadest terms, a vegetarian is a person who does not eat meat. There are several exceptions and variations that will be covered shortly, but that is the general definition. However, simply being a vegetarian does not necessarily equal weight loss. That is because there are no guidelines or restrictions to how much you can eat so you can still consume loads amounts of food every day and gain weight, even if you do avoid meat.
Different Kinds of Vegetarian DietsBeing a vegetarian is not an exact term. They do not all share the same traits, even when it comes to their eating habits. You would think that one common trait would be not eating meat, but that is also untrue. There are vegetarians that sometimes sneak in some meat in their diet, but usually in small quantities. Therefore, it is important to make a distinction between various kinds of vegetarian diets so that you can see which one would be best fitted for you.
- Flexitarian diet. As mentioned above, this means that this is a vegetarian diet which is a bit flexible and allows eating meat on occasion. This is ideal for people that want to eat healthier and lose weight, yet still prefer to consume meat every once in a while. Other permitted foods included eggs and dairy products, but veggies should still be at the core of this diet.
- Pescetarian diet. This one is also not a strict diet. It refers to people that eat predominantly fruits and vegetables, but also consume other products such as eggs or dairy. The key characteristic of pescetarians is that they do not eat any kind of meat except for fish. This is a good diet to follow for fish lovers as it is usually very healthy: it is low in calories, but rich in proteins and minerals and contains healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Shellfish is also typically permitted.
- Ovo-vegetarian diet. This is one of the standard vegetarian diets where no kinds of meat are allowed, including seafood. At the same time, dairy products are also forbidden. However, eggs are still ok for consumption.
- Lacto-vegetarian diet. Like the previous one, this diet does not allow any kinds of meat. However, eggs are also not allowed this time, but dairy products such as milk, cheese, butter and yoghurt are permitted.
- Lacto-ovo vegetarian diet. This is usually the standard diet that most people think of when they think of vegetarianism. Meat is not allowed, not even seafood, but eggs and dairy products are permitted.
- Vegan diet. This is the strictest vegetarian diet. No kinds of meat, eggs or dairy products are allowed. However, this also includes any kind of food that is made using these products.
- Besides knowing what to eat and what not to eat, benefiting the most from a vegetarian diet also involves consuming the right quantities. Simply eating only certain kinds of food is not enough. Luckily, the traditional vegetarian food pyramid can be a good indicator of what kinds of food you should focus on and what kinds of food to avoid. It has five levels and, going from the base to the top, it is comprised out of grains, legumes & nuts, vegetables, fruits and fat. This means that an ideal vegetarian diet would involve eating a lot of grains; around 6 servings per day to be exact. Legumes and vegetables are also eaten frequently with 4 to 5 servings per day and fruits and fats should be eaten twice a day.
Staying Healthy with a Vegetarian Diet
One common issue that people have with the vegetarian diet is the claim that vegetarians are lacking in a lot of nutrients because they deny themselves certain food groups. This can be true in certain cases. The key to a successful vegetarian diet, as is the case with any diet, is diversity. Eating a broad spectrum of foods will ensure that you receive all the nutrients you need and that you do not have any deficiencies.
Calcium is extremely important for your body. Luckily for vegetarians, they can get all the calcium they need from dark green vegetables such as kale, turnips or broccoli. Additionally, soy products can also be a good source of calcium. Iron is another important mineral that most people usually get from meat. It is found in plant sources also, but it is harder to absorb. In order to stay healthy, a vegetarian should consume double the amount of iron each day compared to a meat eater. Good sources include beans, dark leafy green vegetables, whole-grain products and fruits rich in vitamin C such as strawberries or citrus fruits.
The main nutrient we get from meat is protein. Therefore, anybody who does not eat meat must make sure that they are getting their protein from other sources. Eggs and dairy products are good sources, but it can also be found in soy products, beans, seeds and whole-grain foods.
- The ones that have it the hardest in terms of getting all their nutrients are vegans. This is because they neglect so many food groups that come with their own set of healthy benefits. A vegan diet will probably yield the best weight loss results, but you need to be careful to get all your necessary nutrients from the food you eat if you also want to stay healthy. Zinc is a big problem as it is not absorbed as easy from plants as it is from meat, just like iron. Vegans have to consume large amounts of soy products, legumes and nuts in order to compensate. The same goes for iodine. Vegans are at risk of developing an iodine deficiency and even a goiter not only because they do not get their daily intake, but also because some of their foods such as soybeans can actually increase the risk. There aren’t any good vegan alternatives for iodine, which is why it is recommended that vegans consume iodized salt once a day.
- Vitamin B-12 is probably the biggest problem for all vegetarians. This is almost exclusively obtained from meat. Those that follow a pescetarian or flexitarian diet should get their necessary B-12 from the meat they eat, but everyone else is at risk of developing a deficiency. What makes things even worse is that the usual vegetarian diet is rich in folate, which is another vitamin that can actually mask the appearance of a B-12 deficiency until serious health problems start to appear. The best course of action is to take B-12 supplements or eat cereal and soy products that have been specifically enriched with this vitamin.
That is about all the info you need to know in order to decide whether a vegetarian diet is right for you or not. Remember that just because you give up certain foods such as meat or dairy products does not necessarily mean that you will lose weight, but it will go a long way in helping you achieve your weight goal. If you are having troubles adjusting to this new lifestyle, make changes to your diet incrementally. Start by making your favorite foods but using substitutes wherever possible: using soy, tofu etc. You will get used to the new flavors eventually and you should also start to see some changes in your waistline.