We are aware that when we decide to change our lifestyle and whether we are influenced by social, family or a conviction, we are entering in a plane where we might be discriminated, criticized, or admired, experiencing an endless social pressure that can create confusion.
The best answer for all the dilemma is to learn to listen to our body, a powerful machine designed to live in harmony, in a way that the results will be reflected in it.
Surely more than once you heard someone was a vegetarian. But, what does that imply? Is it the same as being a vegan (See our post What it is to be vegan on ).
The truth is that no. There are differences between both types of diet. Likewise, among vegetarians you can also find some of them.
The word vegetarian was first heard in 1842 in the British Vegetarian Association and its meaning is “full, healthy, fresh and lively.” Those who practice it say that it is not only a fruit and vegetable-based diet, but choosing a lifestyle often accompanied by behaviors, activities, and ways of seeing life. All of them out of health driving force, respect for animal life, and sustainability concerns.
Vegetarians are those who do not include meat or fish in their diet, but consume animal products that do not cause the animal’s death: eggs and/or dairy.
In addition to a great variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, trying to cover all the colors (Green, Yellow-Orange, Red, Blue-Purple, and White), a vegetarian diet – just like a vegan diet – includes as well a variety of dishes prepared from cereals (With gluten: Wheat, Rye, Barley, Spelt. Without gluten: Oat, Millet, Corn, Rice, Quinoa, Buckwheat, Amaranth), tubers (Potato, Sweet potato, Yam, Yucca (Cassava), Parsnip, Turnip), legumes (Soybeans, Pinto and Red Beans, Chickpeas, Lentils, Peas, Alfalfa, Peanuts, Carob, Tamarind), seeds (Flax, Chia, Sesame, Sunflower), as well sprouted seeds, and nuts.
Provide the necessary elements to satisfy the most demanding palates and comprehensively cover all our nutritional needs. You will get a right balance of nutrients if you eat each day fruits, vegetables, a combination of 3 types of cereals and tubers, and a combination of 2 types of legumes, seeds, nuts, eggs and dairy.
Types of vegetarians
- Lacto-ovo-vegetarians; they eat eggs and dairy.
- Lacto-vegetarians; those who only incorporate dairy into their diet.
People called as plant strict vegetarians, who do not consume eggs or dairy, are defined as vegans not vegetarians.
Some people use the word flexitarian to refer to those who are “semi-vegetarians”: they mainly eat a vegetarian diet, with the occasional inclusion of meat products.
WHO CAN BE VEGETARIAN: BENEFITS AND CONCERNS
Many have come to think that this lifestyle is just for some people, especially for people with chronic or terminal illnesses, but certainly it has been proven by lots of studies that everyone can be a vegetarian.
Numerous studies have suggested that a vegetarian diet increase life expectancy.
The benefits of a vegetarian diet are demonstrable as consuming large amounts of fruits and vegetables, vegetarians get higher amounts of antioxidants and phytochemicals associated with good cardiovascular health and reducing cancer risk. Many researchers conclude that with proper planning, all your dietary needs can be achieved, while avoiding the increased fat and cholesterol associated with meat.
Vegetarian children may grow more slowly, reaching puberty much later. This is very desirable for women since the early menarche is a risk factor for developing breast cancer. So this slower infant and pubertal development prolongs life expectancy.
The vegetarian diet prevents cancer. Many epidemiologists and clinical studies show that vegetarians have a important lower risk of dying from cancer than non-vegetarians. Vegetarians are also less affected by colon cancer. What you eat from animal is usually high in fat and low in fiber. Meat and dairy products contribute to many types of cancer, including colon, breast, prostate and other organs. Colon cancer has been directly linked to meat consumption. Diets rich in fat stimulate the production of estrogen, particularly estradiol, high levels of which are associated with breast cancer. A recent study demonstrated the association between dairy consumption and an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer. The process of digesting lactose to turn it into galactose evidently damages the ovaries. Vegetarians avoid animal fat, associated to cancer, and consume lots of fiber and vitamins, prevent this disease.
Bacon, ham and sausages rank alongside cigarettes as a major cause of cancer, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said, placing cured and processed meats in the same category as asbestos, alcohol, arsenic and tobacco.
The report from the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) said there was enough evidence to rank processed meats as group 1 carcinogens because of a causal link with bowel cancer.
It places red meat in group 2A, as “probably carcinogenic to humans”. Eating red meat is also linked to pancreatic and prostate cancer, the IARC says.
The IARC’s experts concluded that each 50-gram (1.8-ounce) portion of processed meat eaten daily increased the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.
The vegetarian diet also prevents heart disease. Meat and meat products are generally a main source of saturated fat and cholesterol. Vegetarians avoid these high-risk products. They do not contain fiber; it helps lower cholesterol levels. One study showed that a vegetarian diet, rich in fiber and low in saturated fat, associated with lifestyle changes, such as exercise and quitting smoking, could reverse the atherosclerosis.
Since the beginning of the century nutritionists noticed that those who did not eat meat kept a lower blood pressure. It was also found that just two weeks of a vegetarian diet reduced pressure, regardless of the levels of sodium in the diet.
Preventing and Reversing Diabetes
The non-insulin-dependent diabetes can be controlled, and sometimes reversed with a low fat vegetarian diet and daily exercise. A low fat diet rich in fiber and complex carbohydrates allows for more effective action of insulin, with easier levels of blood sugar control. In insulin-dependent diabetes, the vegetarian diet does not eliminate the need to inject insulin, but reduces the amount of this medicine.
Biliary and renal stones. Osteoporosis
It has been shown that a vegetarian diet reduces the risk of stone formation. Diets rich in protein, especially originating from animals, induce urinary excretion of calcium and oxalic and uric acid, which are precisely the fundamental components of kidney stones. Some British researchers advise that people prone to kidney stones should follow a vegetarian diet. Similarly, it was found a link between gallstones and ingestion of large amounts of cholesterol and fat, typical in meat-based diets.
Vegetarians have a lower risk of developing osteoporosis. Meat products induce bone decalcification and promote osteoporosis. Meat products low ph and calcium goes out from bones to act as part of the calcium buffer system; the major buffering mechanism by far is release of calcium carbonate from bone. It is released to minimize and balance changes in ph.
A 1985 Swedish study showed that asthmatics who manage to keep a vegetarian diet for a year experience a dramatic reduction in the frequency and severity of their attacks, and consumption of drugs. Twenty of the twenty-four people surveyed noted an improvement in their disease.
Some worry that a vegetarian diet cannot meet the nutritional requirements of the human body, but the reality is that it is not difficult to maintain an adequate nutrition through a vegetarian diet which ensures a sufficient amount of protein. Although it is true that a regular vegetarian diet has a lower protein content than a meat-based diet, a special combination of 3 types of cereals and tubers (3 cereals, 2 cereals and 1 tuber, or 1 cereal and 2 tubers), and 2 types of legumes, seeds, nuts, eggs and dairy (2 legumes, 1 legume and 1 seed,…), provides the carbon chains that are necessary to get a protein of high biological value.
Significant amounts of calcium and iron are contained in a well balanced vegetarian diet as described before.
Few vegetarians develop a vitamin B12 deficiency (Fatigue, feeling faint, breathlessness….), as it is present in eggs and dairy. If you have symptoms of deficiency you must visit you doctor. An additional source with vitamin B12-fortified grains and drinks, or supplements will be assessed. This is especially important for pregnant women and those breastfeeding.
Although the American Dietetic Association supports that a vegetarian diet contains everything needed for pregnancy, its advice is that pregnant and lactating women should supplement their diet with vitamins B12 and D. Most doctors also recommends supplements of iron and folic acid (Although vegetarians consume more folic acid than those who consume meat diets) in these cases.
One question: What about getting enough vitamin D with an appropriate sun exposure?
Vegetarianism AROUND THE WORLD
In different countries, there is an increasing number of people who adopt this lifestyle in search of a better diet and a healthy lifestyle.
Around the world, vegetarianism is seen in different ways:
Vegetarianism was approved in the US in 1838 by the Convention of Health. In 1971, 1% of Americans described themselves as vegetarians. A 2008 Harris Interactive survey found that 10% of adults “largely followed a vegetarian diet”, with a 3.2% following a vegetarian diet and .5% a vegan diet. A 2012 Gallup survey found 5% of Americans identified themselves as vegetarian and vegan 2%. A 2013 Public Policy Polling survey found 13% of Americans identified themselves as vegetarian (6%) or vegan (7%).
In Canada, vegetarianism is generally synonymous with lacto-ovo- vegetarianism. Approximately 4% of adults are vegetarians.
Eating meat is still seen as a sign of prosperity in China. But a growing number of young people (About 4%) in big cities are identified as vegetarians.
In Taiwan, 1.7 million people, 13% of the population, follow a vegetarian diet for at least some of the time. There are over 6,000 establishments of vegetarian food. A popular movement “Vegetarian one day a week,” has been promoted nationally. Even governing bodies are involved, such as the Council of Taipei City Education.
The percentage of vegetarians in Israel is estimated at 5%.
In 2007, the United Nations FAO statistics indicated that the Indians had the lowest rate of meat consumption in the world. In India, vegetarianism is generally synonymous with lacto- vegetarianism.
According to the 2006 Hindu – CNN Ibn Nation State Survey, around 30% of Indians are vegetarians (The reasons are mainly economic and partly cultural). Among the various communities, vegetarianism is more common among the Jain community and less common among Muslims (3%) and residents of coastal states.
The percentage of vegetarians is estimated at 2%.
Since May 2009, Ghent is the first city in the world to hold a weekly “Vegetarian day”.
According to the Institute Produkt und Markt, 9% of the population are vegetarian, It is the second highest rate of vegetarianism in the EU (after Italy).
According to the European Vegetarian Union, Italy has the highest rate of vegetarianism in the European Union, 10% of the population.
The percentage of vegetarians is estimated at 4%.
An increasing number of people have adopted a vegetarian diet since the end of World War II.
According to the Vegetarian Society about 9% is vegetarian. There are twice as many vegetarian men than women.
According to a 2012 survey conducted by the Brazilian Institute of Public Opinion and Statistics, 8% of the population identified themselves as vegetarian. São Paulo has the largest number of vegetarians in absolute terms (792,120 people), while Fortaleza has the highest percentage, with 14% of the total population.
Every day, there are more and more celebrities who become vegetarians or vegans for dietary, ethical and/or environmental motivations.
Leonardo Da Vinci, the most famous artist, creator, scientist, genius, and indigo of all times, thought that one day would come when mankind would reject eating meat completely since it would be considered as a murder, a crime in the same way as it is done to people.
Benjamin Franklin: As he recounted in his autobiography, when he was 17 he read a book on vegetarian diet and from there never looked back.
Paul McCartney not only follows a vegan diet, but an activist and defender of animals. The ex-Beatle stopped eating meat next to his late wife Linda McCartney. In 1991, Paul and Linda started a business of frozen vegan food that still works today. Like their parents, the renowned fashion designer Stella McCartney is a vegan and animal advocate.
Bill Clinton was president of the US, and since a couple of years decided to start eating vegan for health reasons. Former President recognizes not have started this diet for the animals, but because it was recommended to him so he could feel fit with 70 years. But he was so delighted with his new lifestyle does not hesitate to recommend it, in fact has not only ceased to be omnivorous but has also begun to reduce the intake of processed carbohydrates.
James Cromwell, best known for his roles in Babe, has been a vegetarian since 1975 and became a vegan in 1995 after shooting Babe. It is said that this film had a great effect on the growth of vegetarianism, particularly among young people. He also promoted a more comprehensive view of the intellectual, emotional and social abilities of animals.
Jared Leto is a vegetarian since he was a teenager, and a few years later, switched to a 100% vegan diet. The singer and Oscar-winning actor has shown on numerous occasions, how satisfied you can be with your vegan lifestyle.