Vegetarianism is the practice of not eating meat, fish, or poultry.
People are vegetarians for many reasons. Some choose vegetarianism because of personal, ethical, or moral views, believing that it is wrong to kill animals for meat. Others believed that it is unhealthy to eat meat. Certain religious groups, such as Hindus and many Buddhists, practice vegetarianism as part of their faith.
Still, others are concerned that the earth’s ability to feed its population is limited. Worldwide, good agricultural land is scarce, and a large portion of this limited resource is used to grow grain that is fed to animals. Some people believed that it would make more sense to use that land to grow crops for human consumption.
Vegetarian cooking is nothing new. In the olden days and in many cultures, vegetarian meals are mostly served. Today, more and more people from all over the world are recognizing the health benefits of reducing or totally eliminating animal meat in their diets. Added to this are the increasing number of healthy and delicious vegetarian alternatives to meat, such as tofu, tempeh, seitan, and even vegetarian patties and other meat alternatives.
There are also many restaurants that cater to vegetarian dishes and even chefs are discovering and exploring new vegetarian dishes. All of these factors have led to a new approach to vegetarian dining.
There are some vegetarians who do not include milk, eggs, and animal products in their diet. There are vegans who exclude eggs, milk, and other animal products from their diets.
Meat and dairy products are excellent sources of protein, but they are not the only sources. Fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes (plants that grow seeds within pods, such as beans, peas, and lentils) also provide protein. However, most plant proteins are not complete.
Proteins—contain all of the necessary amino acids. Soybeans and soybean products such as tofu and soy milk contain complete proteins, making them very popular among vegetarians. However, consuming combinations of food can help the body achieve complete proteins.
These combinations include beans, lentils, or peanuts with rice, wheat, or corn. For example, rice and lentils, corn tortillas and beans, and even peanut butter and wheat bread all provide complete proteins.
Calcium is another important nutrient for a balanced diet. It is essential for healthy bones, joints, and teeth. Good thing, there are many meatless and nondairy food that contain significant amounts of calcium. Whole grains, legumes, nuts, and dark green vegetables such as broccoli and kale are all good vegetarian sources of calcium.
The most important thing to remember when considering a vegetarian diet is balance. A healthy assortment of fruits, vegetables, and grains can provide most of the vitamins and minerals that the body needs, without adding much fat or cholesterol.
The Benefits of Vegetarian Diet
1. Weight loss. Vegetarians are said to have lower BMI or body mass index than those who eat animal meat.
2. Lower cholesterol level. LDL or the low density lipoproteins, also known as the bad cholesterol, is known to be the cause of clogging in the arteries. If you follow a vegetarian diet, the percentage of having high cholesterol is reduced to almost 30 percent.
3. Lower risk of cancer: vegetarians have a lower risk of developing different chronic diseases such as cancer compared to those who are meat eaters. This is because vegetables are low in cholesterol and saturated fat, and are high in antioxidants, fiber, and phytonutrients.
4. Lower risk of lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes and other cardiovascular diseases.
Disadvantages of Vegetarian Diet
A meat-free diet may be good for one’s health, but there are also disadvantages especially if you don’t eat a well-balanced vegetarian diet. Most alternatives for proteins especially the plant-based ones except for quinoa and soy are considered incomplete. Meaning, they don’t supply all the essential amino acids that are required in building tissues and muscles.
To do away with protein deficiency, it is advised that you make a combination of different vegetarian-friendly proteins in a day such as hummus, beans, and brown rice. Vegetarians need to combine different proteins throughout the day.