Vegetarian Eating: Are you getting essential nutrients?
Published: March 03, 2017
Vegetarian eating practices appear to be associated with improved overall health and decreased health risk.
People who follow vegetarian eating practices tend to have healthier body weights, blood pressure, blood-glucose levels, lower rates of several cancers, and decreased incidence of heart disease and diabetes type 2.
The inclusion of meat, particularly red meat, in the diet is controversial.
Studies indicate that the consumption of large amounts of red meat appear to be associated with an increased risk of heart disease, some cancers, inflammatory disorders, and obesity and associated health risks.
This is in part due to the higher saturated fat content of red meat, but increased health risk has also been attributed to substances which develop in red meat during cooking.
Although more long term studies are needed to better understand the effect of red meat on health, many people are excluding red meat and other animal derived products as a means to improve their health and avoid potential life threatening disease.
Vegetarian eating patterns alone may not provide all of these health benefits as vegetarians often adopt other healthy lifestyle practices as well, such as not smoking or taking illicit drugs, consuming little or no alcohol, and being physically active.
Achieving better health is one reason why many people adopt vegetarian diets. Other motivations for excluding animal derived food products from the diet include religious and non religious beliefs, economic and ecological responsibility, and philosophical and ethical concerns.
Just as people have different reasons for adopting a vegetarian diet there are different interpretations of vegetarian eating.
Definitions of vegetarian
Vegetarian is a general term for people who exclude animal derived food products such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products from their diet, but it is not interpreted by all vegetarians in the same way.
Different interpretations of vegetarian include:
- Vegan (total or strict vegetarian): excludes all animal derived food products. Some vegans exclude all animal products such as leather and wool from their lifestyle.
- Lacto-vegetarian: includes dairy products such as milk, yogurt, cheese and butter.
- Lacto-ovo-vegetarian: includes dairy products and eggs.
- Pesco-vegetarian: includes fish
- Pollo-vegetarian: includes poultry
- Pesco-pollo-lacto-ovo-vegetarian: only excludes red meat and is therefore close to being an omnivore who has no restriction of foods.
Advantages of vegetarian eating
Whitney, E. & Rady Rolfes, S. (2005). Understanding Nutrition. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth
Gropper, S.S., Smith, J.L. & Groff, J.L. (2005). Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism (4thEd.). Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.