Are you considering switching to a vegan diet, but not sure if it’s a good idea, or the best way to handle it? Rest assured that you are not alone. With the growing popularity of plant-based diets, more and more people are choosing to give up meat, fish, and poultry. A balanced plant-based diet can be very healthy, but if you want to reap all the benefits, you may need to pay more attention to what and how much you eat.
Not only can plant-based diets be beneficial to our health and animal welfare, but they can also benefit the environment. according to vegetarian community (Opens in a new tab)a meat-based diet generates nearly three times the amount of carbon emissions compared to a vegan diet. It also uses more natural resources. In fact, switching to a plant-based diet can reduce your water consumption by up to 41%, as well as save on land use.
But the transition to a vegetarian diet may not be easy. To make sure it runs smoothly, we’ve put together a guide on how to enjoy a balanced vegan diet, including foods to eat, foods to avoid, and potential supplements. And if you are wondering whether or not vegetarianism might be a better option, in our article vegetarian vs vegan It should answer all your questions. Of course, any change in your diet should first be consulted with your doctor or registered dietitian.
What is a vegetarian diet?
according to vegetarian community (Opens in a new tab)Vegetarians do not eat animal products such as fish, meat and chicken. It also avoids slaughter by-products such as gelatin and animal rennet.
Vegetarian diets come in several different forms, including:
- Vegetarian diet and eggs: Eliminates meat, fish and poultry but allows eggs and dairy products.
- lacto-vegetarian diet: Eliminates meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and allows dairy products.
- vegan egg diet: Eliminates meat, fish, poultry, and dairy products, and allows eggs.
- Pescitarian Diet: Removes meat and poultry but allows fish.
- vegan diet: Eliminates all animal and animal-derived products.
What are the potential benefits of a vegetarian diet?
according to Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (Opens in a new tab)Plant-based diets may promote weight loss and help maintain these results in the long term. The scientists combined the results of intervention trials that did not include calorie restriction and lasted more than four weeks. They found that the plant-based diets led to an average weight loss of 3.4 kg to 4.6 kg, depending on the method of analysis. Observational studies have also shown that vegetarians tend to have less weight than omnivores, suggesting that vegetarian diets may protect against obesity in the long term.
Plant-based diets may also have a beneficial effect on our cardiovascular health. According to a meta-analysis published in Nutrients (Opens in a new tab) In the journal, vegetarians tend to have significantly lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure compared to omnivores. Plant-based diets may also help regulate blood lipid levels. as stated in Clinical Nutrition (Opens in a new tab) In the journal, there is convincing evidence that plant-based diets lead to lower concentrations of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and HDL cholesterol — factors that may contribute to narrowing of the arteries.
Type 2 diabetes
Plant-based diets may help regulate blood glucose metabolism. according to Clinical Nutrition (Opens in a new tab) Plant foods enhance insulin sensitivity, while eating animal protein contributes to insulin resistance. This effect can be observed in both healthy people and patients with diabetes mellitus. multiple studies (Opens in a new tab) It has also shown that plant-based diets significantly reduce the likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Good gut health It is crucial for the proper functioning of the multiple systems in our bodies. Evidence is mounting that plant-based diets may have a beneficial effect on the composition of our gut microbiome. according to Frontiers in Nutrition (Opens in a new tab) magazine, people who follow a vegan and vegetarian diet tend to have a much higher number of “good” germs and lactic acid bacteria, lower the number of “bad” elements clostridium And the Enterococci Ocean.
Scientists suggest that this effect is due in part to the abundance of fiber and polyphenols found in plant foods. High fiber intake promotes the growth of microbial strains that ferment fiber into metabolites such as short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs have been shown to boost our immunity, improve the integrity of the blood-brain barrier and regulate the intestinal environment.
Contrary to popular belief, plant-based diets may also help increase exercise performance. according to Nutrients (Opens in a new tab) In the journal, studies show that there are no consistent differences between omnivores and vegetarians when it comes to endurance and muscle strength. In fact, evidence suggests that plant-based diets may be better in this regard. Scientists suggest that this is because plant-based diets alter molecular signaling and the gut microbiome, which contributes to better muscle adaptation.
Foods to enjoy on a vegetarian diet
- vegetables and fruits
- Grains, including quinoa, rice, and oats
- Legumes such as beans, peas and lentils
- Nuts and seeds
- Vegetable fats such as olive oil and avocado
- Plant proteins, such as tofu, tempeh, seitan, and spirulina
- Dairy products
- Vegetarian meat alternatives
What foods should you avoid if you are a vegetarian?
- Meat or poultry
- Fish or seafood
- Animal-derived ingredients, such as gelatin, stock, animal rennet, lard, carmine, and oleic acid
If you are a vegetarian or vegan, you should also avoid eggs. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, you should also avoid dairy products. And if you’re a vegetarian, you should also avoid other animal by-products, such as honey, beeswax, and pollen.
Are there any risks to a vegetarian diet?
Balanced plant-based diets can be healthy and nutritious. However, due to their restrictive nature, plant-based diets can also increase the risk of developing certain nutritional deficiencies.
First of all, animal foods are a rich source of essential amino acids – the protein “building blocks” that our bodies cannot produce on their own. Plant foods tend to be deficient in one or more of these compounds, and are therefore considered incomplete protein sources.
But that doesn’t mean vegans aren’t able to get high-quality protein. Eating a variety of legumes, nuts, seeds, and grains will help you get a complete amino acid profile. Another solution is to consume more Complete plant protein sources, such as tofu and seitan. Finally, including more eggs and dairy products in your diet can also help fill the gap.
Vegetarian diets may also contain insufficient amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, vitamin B12, iron, calcium, and zinc, as mentioned in Current Nutrition Reports (Opens in a new tab) magazine. according to Clinical Nutrition (Opens in a new tab) Journal, Vegetarians are especially at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency.
Furthermore, there is evidence that plant-based diets may affect dental health. According to a review published in Community dentistry and oral epidemiology (Opens in a new tab)Vegetarians may be more likely to develop dental erosion.
Do you need a vegetarian food supplement?
Vitamin B12 Essential to our health, getting enough of this vital micronutrient may lead to unintended weight loss, lack of appetite, fatigue, depression, and cognitive problems. Since the majority of Vitamin B12 sources They are animal foods, and those following a vegan diet are at high risk of deficiency. Scientists from Nutrients (Opens in a new tab) The Journal advises vegetarians to increase their intake of foods fortified with B12 and/or supplements.
zinc It is another nutrient that may need to be supplemented in vegetarian diets. according to Journal of Food and Agricultural Sciences (Opens in a new tab)Vegetarians tend to have much lower zinc intake and blood zinc levels than omnivores. Although there are many plant sources of this vital nutrient, their bioavailability may hinder the presence of phytates. Found in a range of seeds, nuts, and legumes, phytates may bind to zinc and prevent it from being absorbed in the digestive system. Therefore, vegetarians are advised to increase their consumption of zinc-fortified foods, or to take low doses of zinc supplements.
Omega-3 fatty acids, such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), have been shown to provide multiple health benefits. These vital compounds are mostly found in fish, so vegetarians may struggle to get enough of them from plant foods.
according to Nutrients (Opens in a new tab) Journal and plant sources of omega-3s such as walnuts, flaxseeds, spirulina, and chlorella mostly contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which in humans may not be adequately converted to EPA and DHA. So vegans are advised to increase their consumption of plant-based ALA foods, or take algae-based EPA and DHA supplements.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide medical advice.