Get The Facts About Vegetarian Diets
What you need to know before you go veggie
Is it true that switching to a vegetarian diet will automatically result in
Well, not necessarily. On the whole, vegetarian diets tend to be lower in
calories and higher in fiber, making you feel full on fewer calories. They can
definitely help you shed unwanted pounds when done correctly.
But vegetarian foods can be high in calories and fat. For example, if
you cut out meat but replace it with lots of cheese and nuts, you could end up
consuming the same number of calories (or even more). On the other hand, eating
more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, soy, and moderate amounts of nuts
can help you lose weight -- as long as you monitor your calorie intake.
Many cultures around the world center their diets on vegetarian foods. The
Greeks have spanokopita, Italians love their eggplant parmigiana and
cheese-filled manicotti, and how about the Thai curries and vegetable stir
Even if you're not a vegetarian, you probably include some of these
favorites in your diet:
- Bean burritos or fajitas
- Pasta with marinara sauce
- Veggie sushi
- Vegetable, bean, or lentil soup
- Veggie pizza
- Stir-fried tofu
- Veggie burgers
- Bean salads
- Macaroni and cheese
One Size Doesn't Fit All
The term 'vegetarian' means different things to different people. Some
people who simply do not eat red meat call themselves vegetarians. Others
consume huge quantities of fruit and consider themselves fruitarians.
The most common types of vegetarian diets are vegan, lacto, ovo, and
lacto-ovo. The vegan, the strictest type of vegetarian, does not eat any animal
products. Vegan diets are based on grains, seeds, nuts, legumes, soy, fruits,
vegetables, and oils. A lacto-vegetarian eats dairy products in addition to the
vegan diet. An ovo-vegetarian eats eggs along with the vegan diet. And a
lacto-ovo vegetarian consumes both dairy products and eggs as well as the
standard vegan foods.
Don't Be Deficient
Diets that include animal products are generally nutritionally complete.
Vegans, on the other hand, often fall short of meeting requirements for vitamin
B-12, calcium, vitamin D, zinc, and iron. The good news is that many of these
nutrients are added to food products. Read the labels to find veggie products
that have been fortified with added nutrients.
Taking a daily vitamin mineral supplement that provides complete amounts of
the above nutrients is another way to ensure adequate nutrition. And getting
plenty of sunshine is one way to satisfy the body's requirement for vitamin
If you adopt a vegan diet, you also need to understand the concept of
complementary proteins. Animal protein is complete, meaning it contains all the
amino acids essential to a healthy diet. Plant foods contain plenty of protein,
but their amino acids are incomplete. So to make sure you're getting complete
protein, eat different plant foods in combination -- for example, by having
beans along with your rice. Vegans need to pay close attention to their diets
to make sure they are nutritionally adequate.