Vegetarian Diets

The vegetarian diet is a diet form which removes the need for the consumption of foods of animal origin in whole or in part. The reasons may be both health and ideological nature.

Various forms of Vegetarian Diets

Depending on which animal food is dispensed with, there are three different types of vegetarians. The followers of these three forms are called vegans, lacto-vegetarians and lacto-ovo-vegetarian.

The vegans reject completely any foods from animal origin. They eat no meat, poultry, fish, or eggs, milk or honey. Currently honey is debated if it should be excluded or included in a vegan diet.

The lacto-vegetarian diet allows consumption of dairy products that would include milk, cheese, and yogurt.  However all meat, fish, poultry, and eggs are excluded from this diet, as is any food containing eggs.

Lacto-ovo-vegetarians allow consumption of dairy products and eggs but would exclude consumption of meat, poultry, and fish. Of the three, this is the most “flexible” diet because more foods are included.

Benefits of Vegetarian Diets

Vegetarian diets consist mostly of plant foods that by their intrinsic nature have less calories. Therefore, one of the benefits of a vegetarian diet, a person is less likely to be overweight than in the normal mixed diet. Similarly, cardiovascular diseases are less common in vegetarians. Also, gout is avoided by not eating meat and sausages. Vegetarians are rarely affected by this disease, because plant products contain little of the purines that can cause gout.  Also, the consumption of animal foods usually increases cholesterol levels. Vegetarians usually have healthier levels of unsaturated fatty acids and saturated fatty acids. Vegetarians also eat a lot of fiber which ensures regular digestion and a good preventive against colon cancer. And finally, fruits and vegetables contain essential vitamins, minerals and trace elements that are important for the proper functioning of the organs and body functions.

Disadvantages of Vegetarian Diets

The total abandonment of meat and fish, or even eggs and milk, can result in certain deficiencies for the human body. Vegetarians can suffer from iron deficiency, since the animal products are much richer in iron than plant products. Fish contain a lot of valuable unsaturated fatty acids and iodine, which is very important for proper functioning of the thyroid gland. Another problem is that vegetarian diets contain little vitamin B12 because it is hardly present in plant foods.  Eggs and milk are rich in protein and calcium so vegetarians need to find these important elements in other plant foods.

The vegetarian diet requires more focus and effort than the mixed diet to combine foods so that the body gets the nutrients it needs. Special care is required in children, pregnant women and during lactation. If necessary the vegetarian diet can be enriched with dietary supplements.