Why Switch to a Vegetarian Diet and How to Keep Essential Nutrients in Every Meal
Vegetarian diets have gained popularity since people have become more educated about the food they consume. From food documentaries to growing nutritional information on the web, the vast information about food is now easily available, causing people to question their diets. If you or someone in your family has made or is making the switch to a vegetarian diet, know that there are plenty of positive health-related reasons for doing so.
Adjusting to cook for a vegetarian diet may take some time, especially if everyone else in your home eats meat regularly. Rest assured, you won’t have to inconvenience yourself to serve healthy meals with all the essential nutrients to satisfy everyone. Vegetarian meals are easy to prepare, healthy, and delicious!
Why Become a Vegetarian?
For some people, it may be hard to grasp the idea of eliminating meat from their diet – yes that includes bacon, too. They can’t imagine giving up a good steak or rack of ribs, but for others, the benefits of a vegetarian diet outweigh the loss of eating meats. Here are the three major reasons that influence people to make the switch to vegetarianism:
Protest Cruelty to Animals
If you’re not buying free-range, grass-fed meat, chances are the animals you’re eating did not live a humane life. Unfortunately, the food industry in North America favors quantity of meat produced over the quality of the animals’ lives. This reason alone is enough for people to stop supporting animal cruelty and adopt the vegetarian diet.
Make an Effort to Help Stop World Hunger
With the ever-growing global population come the increasing rates of world hunger. While most people in the Western world are fortunate enough to have access to food, especially meat, there are concerns of unsustainable food production leading to an animal-protein food shortage as the world’s population gets alarmingly high. In order to make an effort to try and avert this shortage, vegetarians are making use of the abundant and sustainable plant-based proteins that are so widely available.
Protect the Planet
Breeding animals for human consumption takes up a lot of space and uses a copious amount of resources that is harmful to our planet. While dairy and meat production cause 90% of the Earth’s water depletion, 30% of the Earth’s surface is occupied by farms, land, and crops for livestock meant for human consumption. Furthermore, almost 80% of the Amazon rainforest has been deforested so that it can be used as cattle pastures. Because of these staggering numbers, it’s no surprise that raising animals as food produces more greenhouse gas emissions than that of vehicles, including planes and trains. While this information is alarming, it’s important to understand that choosing vegetarianism can cut down our carbon emissions by a shocking 50%.
The Health Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet
There are many health benefits to a plant-based diet, especially when all the essential nutrients are included. Aside from avoiding fats, hormones, and antibiotics that are commonly found in meats, vegetarians are also nourishing themselves with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and all the goodness that comes with eating fresh, healthy food. In turn, this nutrition leads to an improved immune system, heart health, weight loss, and a lowered risk for many diseases.
However, choosing to become a vegetarian with a low-carb lifestyle faces its own challenges as most vegetarians become “carb-atarians.” It’s important to continue to manage your sugar intake, especially if you have metabolic syndrome or Diabetes. Eating low-glycemic foods on a vegetarian diet becomes a priority for those who are struggling with weight and sugar issues.
Here are the several different kinds of vegetarianism:
- Ovo vegetarianism excludes all meat and dairy but includes eggs;
- Lacto vegetarianism excludes all meat and eggs but includes dairy;
- Ovo-Lacto vegetarianism excludes all meat but includes both dairy, milk, and honey;
- Veganism excludes all meat (and animal products like leather), dairy, eggs, and honey;
- Raw veganism includes only fresh and uncooked fruit, nuts, seeds, and vegetables. Vegetables can only be cooked up to a certain temperature;
- Pescetarianism excludes all meat but includes fish; and,
- Flexitarianism is not necessarily a form of vegetarianism but those who call themselves “flexitarians” eat a mostly vegetarian diet, with occasional inclusion of meat, dairy or eggs.
It’s important to choose a form of vegetarianism that does not include a daily diet of excessive bread, rice, potato, and pasta. Your choices should include more low-glycemic vegetables, and protein replacements that are also low in fats and carbohydrates.
There are plenty of foods available to make up a balanced vegetarian diet. Adopting a vegetarian diet among a family of carnivores may seem challenging or inconvenient. Whether you or a family member is making the switch, it’s important to know that it will get easier to incorporate this diet over time and as always, showing respect for this lifestyle change is key. Making a healthy choice should be embraced and celebrated.