Vegetarian Diets Explained

April 03, 2018
 

By Laura Hitt, R.D.

We all know that there are many health benefits of eating a wide variety of vegetables. There are some who even choose make this way of eating a lifestyle. There are various reasons why someone might adopt a vegetarian diet such as: health reasons, moral reasons, ethical reasons, religious beliefs, or cultural practice, etc.  What some may not be aware of, however, is that there are several different versions of vegetarian diets out there.

Most of us have likely heard the terms vegan, which is a person who does not eat or use any products derived from animals whatsoever; and vegetarian which is a person who does not eat meat but may eat other animal products such as eggs and dairy. In addition to these commonl terms, there are a few others that describe various types of vegetarianism. For example, a pescatarian will eat fish and other seafood, but not the flesh of mammals. A lacto-vegetarian will eat dairy products but avoid eggs. An ovo-vegetarian will eat eggs but not dairy products. And as you can probably guess, a lacto-ovo-vegetarian is someone who does not eat meat but will eat eggs and dairy. This is the most common type of vegetarian diet.

Whether you are currently following a plant-based diet or looking into adopting this lifestyle or a version of it, one thing we can all agree on is that there are health benefits to eating more plants than animals. Countless studies have shown that a healthy, well-balanced vegetarian diet is associated with a higher consumption of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and lower consumption of saturated fat and cholesterol. This can help with regulating weight, lowering cholesterol levels and blood pressure, and reducing risk of heart disease. The key phrase to notice here is “well-balanced vegetarian diet." It is important to be aware that in order to reap the benefits of a plant-based diet, you must replace meat products with fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and healthy fats instead of processed/packaged foods. It is just as possible to eat an unhealthy vegetarian diet as it is to eat an unhealthy diet that consists of meat.

How can you make sure you get the health benefits from following a vegetarian diet? First of all, you will want to take some time to do your research and get your information from reliable and credible sources. Consult with your physician or a registered dietitian for advice and to ensure you are meeting all of your vitamin and protein needs. Second, make sure you are getting a wide variety of whole foods and avoiding processed snack foods. Eating the same foods day after day can result in nutrient deficiencies and not to mention food boredom! Choose foods of all different colors, the deeper and darker the color the better. Finally, keep it simple. Plants are amazing just as they are. Remember that by making them the main focus of your diet, you can absolutely get all the nutrients you need for a long and healthy life.

The author is a registered dietitian with NorthBay Healthcare.


 

Tags: Nourish, Nutrition

Comments

 
 

Post A Comment