Everything You Should Know about the Vegetarian Diet

In recent years, a vegetarian diet has garnered widespread popularity. According to some studies, it is shown that approximately 21.8% of the world’s population is vegetarian.

However, there is less awareness about vegetarian diet overall because the simplest definition of vegetarianism is food free of meat, fish, and fowl flesh. But that is a half-truth because eating habits of vegetarians cover a wide spectrum. It is not known to many what is covered under the diet of vegetarians, and it depends on different types.

So, let’s study the vegetarian diet in little detail.

History of Vegetarianism

The oldest pieces of evidence of vegetarianism come from the sixth century B.C.E. in India, Greece and the Greek civilization in Southern Italy. And, it was originated with a motto to not to harm animals anymore.

However, with the introduction of Christianity to the Roman Empire, early traces of vegetarianism disappeared in Europe. Still, by orders of priests in medieval Europe, consumption of meat or flesh either banned or limited as a gesture of personal sacrifice or abstinence, but they anyway ate fish almost regularly.

But then again in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, vegetarianism reappeared in Western society. And, more people became vegetarian as research continues to support the benefits of a vegetarian diet.

Types of Vegetarian Diets

There is not much awareness that vegetarian diets vary by foods that individuals want to include and exclude. So, here are the most common types:

1. Lacto-Ovo vegetarian diet 

Excludes fish, meat, and poultry but includes eggs and dairy products.

2. Lacto-vegetarian diet 

Excludes fish, meat, poultry, and eggs but includes dairy products.

3. Ovo-vegetarian diet 

Excludes fish, meat, poultry, and dairy products but includes eggs. In regular language, they are also known as eggetarian.

4. Pescetarian diet 

Excludes poultry and meat but includes fish and sometimes dairy products and eggs.

5. Vegan diet 

Excludes meat, poultry, fish, eggs and even dairy products along with other animal-derived products, like honey

6. Flexitarian diet

Mostly vegetarian but sometimes involves meat, fish or poultry.

Foods to Eat

A diverse mix of fruits, grains, vegetables, healthy fats, and proteins should be included in a vegetarian diet.

Also, one can include a variety of protein-rich plant foods like seeds, nuts, legumes, tofu, tempeh, and seitan to replace the protein provided by meat in your diet. Moreover, eggs and dairy can also boost your protein intake if you follow a Lacto-Ovo vegetarian diet.

To fill in any nutritional gaps in your diet, you can prefer eating nutrient-dense whole foods like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables will supply a range of important vitamins and minerals.

Some Healthy Foods to Include on a Vegetarian Diet

1. Fruits:
Bananas,  Apples, berries, melons,  oranges, peaches, pears

2. Vegetables:
Asparagus, Leafy greens, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes

3. Grains: 
Barley, Quinoa, buckwheat, oats, rice

4. Legumes: 
Beans, Lentils,  chickpeas, peas

5. Nuts: 
Walnuts, Almonds, chestnuts, cashews 

6. Seeds: 
Chia, Flaxseeds, and hemp seeds

7. Healthy fats: 
Olive oil, Coconut oil, avocados

8. Proteins:
Tofu, Tempeh, seitan, nutritional yeast, natto, spirulina, dairy products, eggs

Health Benefits

It is a common assumption that meat-eaters are healthy but not entirely true because vegetarian diets are associated with numerous health benefits.

Well, not only this but several studies prove that vegetarians tend to have better diet quality than non-vegetarians and a higher intake of important nutrients like vitamin C, fiber, magnesium, and vitamin E.

Here are some of the health benefits offered by a vegetarian diet:

1. Improves Weight Loss

If you’re looking to lose weight, then switching to a vegetarian diet can be an effective strategy. According to one review of 12 studies noted that on average, vegetarians experience 4.5 more pounds (2 kg) of weight loss over 18 weeks than meat-eaters.

2. Reduces Cancer Risk

It's not just something we are saying, but some researches have shown that a vegetarian diet may be linked to a lower risk of cancer, including those of the colon, stomach, breast, and rectum.

3. Stabilizes Blood Sugar

Based on several pieces of research, it is shown that vegetarian diets help maintain healthy blood sugar levels. According to one analysis of six combined studies, vegetarianism enhanced blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes.

Also, it is mentioned in studies that a vegetarian diet can prevent diabetes by stabilizing blood sugar levels in the long term.

In one study, it was stated that over an average of five years switching from a non-vegetarian to a vegetarian diet was associated with a 53% reduced risk of diabetes in 2,918 people.

Final Thoughts

Most of the non-meat-eaters avoid animal flesh, poultry, and fish, and some of them also restrict dairy and any animal-related products. 

Well, if you want to follow the vegetarian diet, do it without any doubt because it surely is healthy. 

“Eating vegetarian doesn't mean you have to eat boring, humdrum dishes.”
- Marcus Samuelsson

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