Vegetarian diet: discover the benefits and how to get started

Some well-known personalities were adept at the vegetarian diet, among them Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Leonardo da Vinci and Mahatma Gandhi, as well as other great names of today.

There are many reasons that lead a person to adopt a vegetarian diet. According to statistical data from the Brazilian Vegetarian Society (SVB), the main reason is the ethical issue and, secondly, health.

Regarding ethics, the fact that animals are sentient beings (capable of feeling pain, among other things) is defended. Therefore, from this point of view, it would not be appropriate to sympathize with their suffering.

As for health, studies indicate that restricting products of animal origin provides a greater intake of fiber and vegetables, making a healthier and more nutritious diet.

Another factor taken into account is the environment, because according to the United Nations (UN), the livestock sector is largely responsible for soil erosion, contamination of the world springs of water and emits 14% of total gas effect stove.

In addition to these approaches, there are still many others such as religion, philosophy, economics, the social impact of wasting resources for meat production, etc. But our focus is on what the vegetarian diet consists of. We’ll find out a little more below.


What is the vegetarian diet?

The vegetarian diet consists of not consuming any type of meat. But there is a little confusion when it comes to the subject, as there may be some aspects of the diet.

Let’s understand better how it works:

  • Ovolactovegetarianism : uses eggs, milk and dairy products for food;
  • Lactovegetarianism: uses milk and dairy products for food, but restricts eggs;
  • Ovovegetarianism: uses eggs as food, but restricts milk and dairy products;
  • Strict vegetarianism: does not use any animal products in the diet.

Already veganism , as defined by the Vegan Society is a way of living which excludes, as far as possible, all forms of exploitation and cruelty to animals – whether in food, in clothing or in other areas of consumption.

Therefore, in the context of food, veganism and strict vegetarianism are synonymous.

How to begin?

A lot of people want to be vegetarian but can’t, because they say it is very difficult to cut animal protein from the diet for good.

Each person has their own time, so if you want to switch to this diet, you can start small.

You can start by joining the “meatless Monday” movement, to see how your body reacts by gradually taking out animal protein.

Many claim that they have become more creative when it comes to cooking, as they have to improvise and expand the consumption of other types of food such as vegetables, grains and seeds.

It is worth remembering that there are several ramifications of the vegetarian diet. But before adopting any of them it is important to seek nutritional guidance, to define a specific menu that supplies all the necessary nutrients for the body.

Benefits of following a vegetarian diet

There are many studies that show the health benefits of following a vegetarian diet. Check out some of them below:

Reduces risks of overweight and obesity

Studies have shown that vegetarians, especially vegans, tend to be thinner than those who eat meat.

Among the possible explanations for this association are: the high consumption of fiber, whole grains, nuts and seeds, as well as the reduced consumption of fat.

Prevents cardiovascular disease

Vegetarians usually have lower cardiovascular risks, due to the low levels of total cholesterol and LDL (known as bad cholesterol) in the body.

This happens because, in the vegetarian diet, the consumption of saturated fats (present in foods of animal origin and derivatives) is much lower.

Reduces colon cancer risks

The Global Cancer Research Fund has reported the existence of scientific evidence that associates colon cancer with the consumption of red or processed meat.

Reduces breast cancer risks

Studies suggest that women who have been on the vegetarian diet for many years are at lower risk than developing the disease.

This is because vegetables, whole grains, vegetables and fruits are rich in fiber and nutrients and in bioactive compounds, which have numerous antioxidant and antiproliferative properties (inhibits cell multiplication).

Finally, some studies suggest that the consumption of animal meat, in particular processed meat, contributes to the development of neoplasms.

Favors natural nutrition and weight loss

When adopting a vegetarian diet, there is a need to develop a good menu and make healthy changes to supply the necessary nutrients. Thus, the trend is to increase the intake of natural foods such as fruits, vegetables and grains.

This helps to reduce or maintain weight in a healthy way.

Read more: Spirulina: what it is for, benefits and harms and how to use

Do you have risks or harms?

As with any diet, if there is no nutritional monitoring and assessment of nutrient levels in the body, there may be risks to the body.

Some specific nutrients may not be available in vegetarian diets. Therefore, the importance of consulting a nutritionist to establish a balanced diet that can supply these nutrients.

Check out some possible risks of the vegetarian diet:

  • Reduction of vitamin B12 level: vegetarians and, in particular, vegans usually have a lower level of vitamin B12;
  • Lower iron levels: the iron present in vegetables has less absorption than that found in meat. Therefore, vegetarians need to be aware of these levels so that they do not fall below what is necessary;
  • Lower levels of omega 3: omega 3 fatty acids are predominantly present in fish and seafood. It is possible to find the nutrient in chia and flaxseed seeds, nuts, soy products and green leaves, however, in less quantity.

The Ministry of Health states, in the food guide for the Brazilian population, that foods of animal origin are not absolutely essential for healthy eating.

This helps us to conclude that it is possible to live healthily by following a vegetarian diet and, just like anyone else, it is necessary to pay attention to the nutrients necessary for the proper functioning of the body.

And you, have you thought about adhering to the vegetarian diet or already practice? Do you know many people who do not eat meat? Tell us in the comments.

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