These days, it seems most families have at least one member who is following a vegetarian diet. People become vegetarian for a variety of reasons, from ethical and environmental concerns to health concerns or even because it can be a less expensive way of eating.
What does it mean to be vegetarian?
There are different types of vegetarian, including strict vegans who eat no animal products at all. Some people, although not vegetarian, choose to eat less meat or no red meat but still eat fish or chicken. Most people fall in between these two extremes.
There is no question that many vegetarians enjoy a healthy lifestyle. Their diets tend to be lower in fat, higher in fibre and full of nutrient-rich, health protective fruits, vegetables and grains.
Some evidence shows a lower rate of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, some cancers and obesity among vegetarians. Other studies suggest that many vegetarians are more active, maintain a healthy weight and abstain from smoking and alcohol, factors which may also account for their good health.
But just because you're vegetarian doesn't necessarily mean you will enjoy all these benefits. It still takes some care and planning. Some research suggests it may be more what vegetarians do eat rather than what they don't eat that provides the health benefits.
Fruits, vegetables and grains are known to offer protection against disease. It may be possible that non-vegetarians who eat the same healthy amounts of these foods get a similar health benefit. Both vegetarians and non-vegetarians still have to watch their fat intake to further ensure good health.
Keeping a balanced diet
When you give up animal products, you eat much less fat, especially saturated fat, but if you add back lots of other fatty foods (fried veggie burgers for example, or snack foods like chips, doughnuts or pastries) you will lose out on some of the benefits.
It's important to replace the nutrients you miss out on by eliminating animal products. The more restricted your diet is, the more care you must take. A lacto-ovo vegetarian (one who eats dairy products and eggs) generally has no trouble meeting her nutritional requirements, while a strict vegan (one who totally avoids animal products) must take greater care.
Page 1 of 3 -- Read on for more about the best sources for getting the nutrients you need, as well as 101 delicious vegetarian recipes