There are numerous reasons a person might adopt a vegetarian diet. But whether it is for religious, ethical or health reasons, the intent is the same - to follow an eating plan made up of fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and animal byproducts depending on which variation of the vegetarian diet they follow.
There are different practices of vegetarianism.
In general, a vegetarian does not eat any animals, including fish or other creatures of the sea. Some vegetarians even choose to stop eating dairy products and eggs. The diet varies based on the individual's beliefs or habits.
- A vegan restricts his or her intake to foods derived only from plant origin - fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, seeds and legumes. They also pass over honey. The vegan does not consume meat, fish, eggs, dairy or honey.
- Lacto vegetarian includes all of the elements of a vegan diet, however, honey and dairy are allowed on the diet.
- The lacto-ovo vegetarian takes it one step further with the addition of eggs, honey and dairy.
- Lastly, semi-vegetarians consume plant foods, dairy products, eggs, fish and poultry, but they do not eat red meat.
The majority of vegetarian diets are low in animal products. Because vegetarian diets are low in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol, they lessen the risk of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and diabetes.
But when practicing abstinence from animal products, it is a necessity that an individual gets a proper balance of nutrition. They must supplement B-complex vitamins, iron, zinc, potassium and phosphorous which are present in red meats and other animal proteins.
If you plan on following a vegetarian diet, it's important to account for all of the essential nutrients. Following a vegetarian diet goes beyond feasting on pastas with fatty sauces or gorging on French fries which are sometimes prepared in animal fat.
The American Heart Association recommends these guidelines when following a vegetarian diet. Limit the amount of sugar and fatty foods that are high in calories and low in nutrients. Rather than white breads and pastas, opt for whole grains. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. Consume low-fat or fat-free dairy products. Avoid overindulging in eggs which are high in cholesterol.