Why Do People Choose to Be Vegetarian?
People can choose to become whatever type of vegetarian they want. It depends on what they want and do not want to eat. It also depends on the health goals they want to achieve.
According to the American Dietetic Association, there are 4.8 million American adults who adopted a vegetarian diet in the year 2000. About 25 percent of them ate at least four meatless meals every week. The number of people choosing a vegetarian diet is still growing and we’ve got the restaurants and food manufacturers to thank for including vegetarian dishes in menus and in prepackaged foods in the market.
What does it mean to be vegetarian?
A vegetarian basically eats vegetables, fruits, dried beans, peas, grains, seeds and nuts. He or she usually doesn’t eat fish, meat and poultry.
However, vegetarians now have several subgroups. There are lacto-vegetarians or those who eat foods from plant sources and dairy products; lacto-ovo vegetarians or those who eat eggs and dairy products in addition to plant foods; vegans strictly do not eat animal products; and then the semi-vegetarians.
There is no standard definition for a semi-vegetarian. Each person who is a semi-vegetarian determines on his own what to practice regarding this diet. Some would probably consistently eat plant foods, and then eat meat on occasion. Others would probably eat fruits and vegetables with meat like chicken, but not red meat.
What is the Raw-Food Diet?
The raw-food diet basically refers to a diet that consists of raw, uncooked, non-homogenized food. As with semi-vegetarian, there is no standard definition for the raw-food diet. Some people would completely eat raw food only, while others eat about two-thirds or more raw food. Some people would eat vegetables only, while others also eat fish, meat and eggs.
Consuming raw food comes with health risks. Eating uncooked fish or meat may cause food poisoning and some sprouts may also be contaminated by bacteria.
What is the Frutarian Diet?
The frutarian diet is the least common type of vegetarian diet, which does not have a strict definition as well. In general, frutarians eat only ripe fruits.
Not many adopt the fruitarian diet, because it is difficult and would not make a person last very long. It is also not nutritionally safe. If you add some items, such as milk, grains and nuts, to make it healthier, now you’ve got a vegetarian diet.
The Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet
People adopt the vegetarian diet primarily because it is healthy and promotes the prevention of common diseases. Research shows that most vegetarians have a lower BMI or body mass index and lower cholesterol levels, which means they have lower risk for heart disease. The vegetarian diet also helps a person to avoid constipation, diverticulosis, appendicitis and gallstone.
Other reasons for going on a vegetarian diet include religious beliefs, concern for the environment and animal welfare, and economic reasons. Then, some people simply do not like to eat meat because of its taste or texture.
Disadvantages of a Vegetarian Diet
A probable downside of adhering to the vegetarian diet is that people do not get all the essential nutrients for optimal body function. For example, vitamin B12 is only naturally available from animal sources. Other nutrients that may be lacking in a vegetarian diet include protein, vitamin D, iron, zinc and calcium. So, if you’re on a vegetarian diet, be sure to consult a nutritionist to know how you can get all the nutrients your body needs.
Being a vegetarian has its rewards — healthwise speaking. But it may require that you take supplemental vitamins and plan your meals accordingly.
Photo credits: “Pumpkin Seed-Crusted Lentil Patties” by rusvaplauke via Flickr, CC by 2.0