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What is a vegetarian diet?
A vegetarian diet focuses on plants for food. These include fruits, vegetables, dried beans and peas, grains, seeds and nuts. There is no single type of vegetarian diet. Instead, vegetarian eating patterns usually fall into the following groups:
There are two main categories of vegetarians. A vegetarian can chose to either dairy and (or) eggs but the vegan diet excludes all meat and animal products
What are the benefits of being a vegetarian diet?
Reduce your body weight - one study carried out by Cancer Research UK, found that those who continue eating meat will carry on putting on more weight over a five year period, compared to those who switched over to vegetarianism. The study found that vegans put on even less weight as they get older, compared to vegetarians and meat eaters. The study looked at 22,000 meat eaters, fish eaters, vegetarians, and vegans.
Have better cholesterol levels - scientists at the University of Toronto and St. Michael's Hospital demonstrated that a vegetarian diet made up of specific plant foods can lower cholesterol as effectively as a drug treatment. The study, published in the July 23 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, compared a diet of known cholesterol-lowering, vegetarian foods to a standard cholesterol-reducing drug called lovastatin. The diet reduced levels of LDL - the 'bad' cholesterol known to cause clogging in coronary arteries - in participants by almost 29%, compared to a 30.9% decrease in the lovastatin participants. The diet consisted of a combination of nuts (almonds), soy proteins, viscous fibre (high-fibre) foods such as oats and barley and a special margarine with plant sterols (found in leafy green vegetables and vegetable oils).
Live longer - several studies have shown that vegetarians have a much lower risk of becoming obese, developing diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases. All these conditions and diseases reduce one’s life expectancy.
Have a lower risk of developing cancer - several studies have shown a reduced risk of developing many different types of cancer among vegetarians, compared to meat eaters. A recent study carried out by UK researchers, working on the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition-Oxford (EPIC-Oxford) found that vegetarians had a significantly lower overall risk of developing cancer, compared to meat eaters. The study also found, however, that vegetarians have a higher risk of developing cancer of the colon.
How does the Vegetarian diet work?
Vegetarian food is generally lower in fat, especially saturated fats, and much higher in fibre, than animal based foods. However, a vegetarian, like a meat eater, has to watch his/her intake of calories, snack foods, refined carbohydrates, whole milk dairy products, and non-meat junk foods.
What vitamins are good for the Vegetarian Diet?
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.