A vegetarian diet focuses on plants for food (most times strictly). These include fruits, vegetables, dried beans and peas, grains, seeds and nuts. There is no single type of vegetarian diet.
But before I go on and on, believe me I know this is quite a difficult diet to follow especially for a Nigerian (we too love meat). Our love for meat is well played out when you see a Nigerian at a social function like weddings etc. or at a food sale stand (bukka). They have 70% assorted meat on the plate and 30% whatever else (LOL).
Well, it is important to know that people who follow vegetarian diets can get all the nutrients they need. However, they must be careful to eat a wide variety of foods to meet their nutritional needs. Nutrients vegetarians may need to focus on include protein, iron, calcium, zinc and vitamin B12.
A well-planned vegetarian diet can give you good nutrition. A vegetarian diet often helps you have better health. Eating a vegetarian diet can help you:
- Reduce your chance of obesity
- Reduce your risk of heart disease
- Lower your blood pressure
- Lower your risk of type 2 diabetes
Compared to non-vegetarians, vegetarians usually eat:
- Fewer calories from fat (especially saturated fat)
- Fewer overall calories
- More fiber, potassium, and vitamin C
Types of vegetarian diets
When people think about a vegetarian diet, they typically think about a diet that doesn’t include meat, poultry or fish. But vegetarian diets vary in what foods they include and exclude:
- Lacto-vegetarian diets exclude meat, fish, poultry and eggs, as well as foods that contain them. Dairy products, such as milk, cheese, yogurt and butter, are included.
- Lacto-ovo vegetarian diets exclude meat, fish and poultry, but allow dairy products and eggs.
- Ovo-vegetarian diets exclude meat, poultry, seafood and dairy products, but allow eggs.
- Vegan diets exclude meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products — and foods that contain these products.
- Some people follow a semi-vegetarian diet — also called a “flexitarian” diet — which is primarily a plant-based diet but includes meat, dairy, eggs, poultry and fish on occasion or in small quantities.
Anyone following a vegetarian diet needs to make sure to get enough important nutrients. This is because it may be hard to get all the calories and nutrients needed for growth and development and to maintain good health. Careful planning may be needed for certain groups of people such as:
- Young children and teens
- Pregnant or breast-feeding women
- Older adults
- People with cancer, more severe lung problems, and other illnesses.
Vegetarian diets are usually high in fiber. High-fiber diets may lack calories, which can lead to:
- Growth and development problems in infants and children
- Poor growth of a baby while still in a mother’s womb
- Weight-loss in those who are ill or older
Vegetarian diets often lack certain vitamins and nutrients. You may want to pay attention to the following:
Vitamin B12: Sources include eggs, milk products, and foods that have B12 added to them (fortified).
Vitamin D: This vitamin is found in fatty fish, egg yolks, and foods that are fortified with vitamin D, such as soy-milk and cereals.
Zinc: Sources of this mineral include beans and foods fortified with zinc, such as milk and cereals.
Iron: This mineral is found in beans, green vegetables, and foods fortified with iron such as cereals. Eating foods that are high in vitamin C at the same meal as iron-rich foods increase iron absorption. Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron.
Calcium: Sources of this mineral include milk, seeds, beans, nuts, green vegetables, and foods fortified with calcium such as fruit juices.
Protein: Sources of protein include fish, eggs, beans, soy products, nuts and nut butters.If you eat fish, eggs, and dairy, getting enough protein should be easy. Even if you do not, proteins from plants can still provide a healthy diet:
- Soy protein, such as soy nuts, tofu, veggie burgers, chicken substitute, and soy cheese
- Legumes and beans, such as navy beans, split peas, chickpeas
- Nuts, peanut butter and other nut butters, almond milk
- Whole grains
Vegetarian diets that include some dairy products and eggs are nutritionally sound. You may want to work with a dietitian to ensure that your nutrients are adequate. When following a vegetarian diet, keep in mind the following:
- Eat different kinds of foods, including vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and dairy and eggs if your diet includes these.
- Limit foods that are high in sugar, salt (sodium), and fat.
- Do not make up for a missing nutrient by overeating another. For example, do not eat a lot of high-fat cheese to replace meat.
- Instead, choose protein sources that are low in fat, such as beans.
- If needed, take supplements if your diet lacks certain vitamins and minerals.
- Learn to read the Nutrition Facts Label on food packages. The label tells you the ingredients and nutrition contents of the food product.
Learn more from how to eat clean. Have a great week all.