A plant based or vegetarian diet is one which is devoid of fish, meat and chicken. In the vegetarian diet, dairy products and eggs are consumed.
A well balanced vegetarian diet provides many health benefits. These health benefits include a reduced risk of chronic illness such as:
- High blood pressure;
- Some types of cancer;
- Heart disease.
WebMD.com suggests that "if you're eating mostly or only fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, whole grains, and meat substitutes like soy, you may cut your odds of getting heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes, compared to a diet that includes a lot more meat."
When considering to follow a vegetarian diet, it is important to acknowledge the fact that the diet could be lacking in certain nutrients. It is therefore very important to plan your diet in order to make sure that these nutritional requirements are being met. A nutritionist or dietitian may be helpful in planning a vegetarian diet.
The following nutrients could easily be missed from a vegetarian diet if care is not taken:
- Protein – legumes, nuts, seeds, soy products, eggs;
- Minerals such as iron, calcium and zinc – green leafy vegetables, dairy products, soy products, nuts, seeds;
- Vitamin B12 – dairy products, eggs;
Of these, the most common deficiency is iron. Vegetarian adolescents and pregnant women are in particular need to monitor the iron levels and are at risk of becoming anaemic.
Proper planning can help ensure that adequate iron status is maintained in order to prevent anaemic conditions. For example, combining a source of vitamin C (such as fruit or fruit juice) with an iron rich food such as egg, leafy greens will support absorption of iron.
Legumes are a good source of protein and can be combined with a grain such as rice or cous cous in order for the complete protein to be absorbed.
Many vegetarians choose this way of life for lifestyle purposes or for humane reasons.
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