Becoming a vegetarian or a non-meat-etarian

vegetarian
Whether you’re already a vegetarian or weighing your options, there are a lot of things to consider. From they ‘whys’ to the ‘hows’, starting or maintaining a vegetarian diet doesn’t have to mean sacrificing nutrition or flavor, or protein.  In fact, there are several categories of ‘semi-vegetarians’ who follow a more flexible diet that consists primarily of plant based foods, but occasionally includes fish, eggs, poultry and dairy products in small quantities.  Let’s take a look at the ins and outs vegetarianism.

Why become a vegetarian?

Many people become vegetarians for health reasons while others are opposed to violence against animals, and still others recognize the drain on our resources that the meat industry requires.  In fact, in a new report, leading water scientists say the human population would have to switch to an almost entirely vegetarian diet by 2050 to avoid catastrophic global food and water shortages.  “There will not be enough water available … to produce food for the expected 9 billion population in 2050 if we follow current trends,” Malin Falkenmark and colleagues at the Stockholm International Water Institute stated in the report.  Not to mention, meat production contributes greatly to greenhouse gas emissions.

The health benefits & the side effects

Vegetarianism is being followed as a dietary therapy for diseases like heart diseases, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, gall stones, anxiety and depression to name a few. Non vegetarian foods especially animal meats are high in saturated fats which are the underlying cause for many diseases. By switching over to a vegetarian diet, you can reduce the incidence of such diseases.

As with any dietary changes, thought, it’s important to be sure you’re replacing what you’re removing adequately as there are, in fact, side effects to a poorly executed vegetarian diet.   Here’s a great article on the Side Effects of Becoming a Vegetarian that’s worth perusing.

Many transition diets have been developed to help you wean away from non-vegetarian diet. This has to be done gradually. In the initial stages, substitute with some vegetarian foods on some days of the week.  Then you can slowly eliminate meat in your diet. Those who want to follow the vegan diet can substitute eggs and dairy products through increased consumption of protein and calcium rich foods.

Types of vegetarians

There are countless ways many vegetarians and  ‘semi vegetarians’ structure their diet.  Here are the main 4:

  1. Vegans: Do not eat dairy products, eggs, meat, poultry, fish and any products associated with this category. They eat only plant based products.
  2. Ovo-vegetarian: Practitioners of this type of vegetarian diet include eggs but exclude meats and dairy products.
  3. Lacto-Ovo-Vegetarian: The diet allows eggs and dairy but excludes meat, poultry and fish.
  4. Lacto vegetarian: Diet includes dairy products like milk, butter, yogurt, cheese and other milk products. They however exclude meats, poultry and fish.

Vegetarian protein sources

Everyone agrees that meats are a rich source of protein, which forms the building blocks of our body. But, there are good vegetarian sources of protein too. Whole grains, legumes like beans and lentils, fruits and vegetables are good sources of protein. Though you might not find all the necessary amino acids (Protein components) in every protein rich vegetarian food, by combining a few of them, you can get the desired quantum as well as quality protein. If you decide to become a non-meat-etarian, make sure you’re replacing the protein and nutrients you’d normally derive from food, with quality non-mean sources.  Here are some great sources of non-meat protein and vitamins.

  • Nuts and seeds
  • Mushrooms and Soy beans serve as the richest sources of plant protein, where mushrooms can be sautéed or made into a creamy soup.
  • Soy milk and soy tofu
  • Spirulina, a type of seaweed
  • Whey protein

And, while soy is a good source of protein, don’t rely on soy as your sole meat replacement.  There are tons of cookbooks, restaurants, recipes, dietary resources and magazines for vegetarians such as  Vegetarian Times and PETA’s Vegetarian Starter Kit.  There’s also a great article on How to survive your first month as a vegetarian from the Mother Nature Network.

Whatever you decide, own your decision without judging yourself, and set aside the myth that only non-vegetarian diet meets your protein requirements.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

Contributor bio: Marguerite Boyer is a fitness enthusiast who loves to blog on fitness related topics. You can check out her latest post on How To Lose Belly Fat on her website.
Photo: nourished kitchen
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