The Many Variations of a Meatless Diet
Research has proven that consuming a predominantly plant-based diet reduces your risk of health problems, including type 2 diabetes, obesity, some cancers, cardiometabolic issues, and cardiovascular disease. These diets will improve your overall mortality and make you feel stronger, healthier, and happier overall. Studies have also shown that consuming a plant-based diet can lower your BMI and help you manage your weight loss goals.
Give Me Variety!
To give you an idea on the variety of foods you can eat while eliminating meat from your diet, there are over 1.3 billion hits on Google when searching for vegetarian recipes and 1.5 billion for vegan recipes (beef recipes also comes in at 1.5 billion hits). Compare that to chicken recipes at 881 million hits, seafood recipes at 423 million hits, and pork recipes at 297 million hits. With the right resources to offer you exciting, healthy, and delicious vegan and vegetarian recipes, you’ll be far from bored of your new diet.
All or Nothing?
There’s a common misconception that once you start, you have to go full throttle with vegetarian diets and eliminate meat from day one. This isn’t the case and can actually cause you more harm than good. Once you’ve decided to adopt a meatless diet, it’s important to slowly ease off meats over the course of several months. For example, maybe you cut out red meat for the first few months, followed by poultry for a few more months, and then finally seafood. This slow progression will help your body adjust and make you a more successful vegetarian.
Variations of Vegetarianism
Many diets fall under the umbrella of “Vegetarianism,” and they vary from most restrictive to more lenient. But they all have two critical things in common – no meat (or less meat) and more plants! Besides not consuming animals, these diets vary in intensity, types of foods you can and can’t consume, and their environmental and health impacts.
You’ll soon discover there is no right answer to “how to be a vegetarian” – it’s all a matter of finding what works for you and the needs of your body.
If you want to know more about the differences between vegan vs. vegetarian diets, keep reading!
Veganism is a way of life that excludes or abstains from all forms of exploitation and cruelty to animals for consumption, clothing, and other uses. This means no consumption of eggs, dairy, honey, and other foods with animal products or by-products and no leather products and hygiene or makeup products that are tested on animals.
This is more than just a hardcore diet – it’s a lifestyle change. The reasons for becoming a vegan can be health-related, environmental, ethical, or a combination. It’s important to educate yourself on this diet and speak to your physician before practicing so you can avoid the common mistakes people make going vegan.
Advantages of a Vegan Diet
Improved health benefits:
- You’ll consume more plant-based foods that are rich in vitamins and nutrients
- It can help with weight loss
- It can lower blood sugar levels and improve kidney function
- It may protect against some cancers
- It can lower your risk of heart disease
In addition to these health benefits, adopting a vegan diet also reduces our environmental impact on the planet. By not consuming animal products, we are significantly reducing our carbon footprint.
Positive environmental impact:
- Reduces greenhouse gas emissions
- Preserves habitats and various species
- Conserves more water
There are so many healthy, delicious vegan recipes online. You’d be surprised at how much variety you can have for your meals. If you’re interested about how to get started with your vegan diet, do your research and book an appointment with your physician to determine if this is a good diet for you and your body.
Disadvantages of a Vegan Diet:
- It can be more expensive, although meat can be very pricey too
- An effort is required to ensure you consume vital minerals, vitamins, and enough protein
- It can take some time for your digestive system to adapt
- Eating away from home can be challenging
Read more: 5 Ways to Complete Your Plant Protein
A lacto-vegetarian will abstain from eating meat, poultry, fish, seafood, and eggs, but will consume dairy products. Typically, the reasons behind this choice are health-related, cultural, or religious.
Dairy foods are rich in calcium and are typically fortified with vitamin D making this diet ideal for better bone and dental health.
Just like with the lacto-vegetarian diet, an ovo-vegetarian will abstain from consuming meat, poultry, fish, and seafood, but there’s one fundamental difference – they will not consume dairy products, but will eat eggs. It’s more common for people to follow an ovo-vegetarian diet for health reasons, including the ease of adding more protein to their diet.
Lacto-ovo vegetarians: Do not consume meat, poultry, fish, or seafood, but they do eat eggs and dairy products. There is a bit more variety with this diet as you are not as restricted, and you can naturally consume more nutrients from animal by-products.
The flexitarian diet, also known as ‘casual vegetarianism’ focuses on whole, minimally processed plant-based foods and healthy plant protein while also encouraging moderate consumption of meat and animal products. It’s about consuming healthy and whole foods, when your body needs it, including meat. It’s not about strict dieting backed by ethics or influencing ideologies. It’s about listening to your body, understanding your needs and fulfilling yourself with nutrient-rich foods from all resources.
Principles of a flexitarian diet:
- Consume natural, plant-based whole foods
- Consume protein primarily from plants
- Limit consumption of sugar
- Be flexible by incorporating meat and animal products on occasion
Due to the flexibility and variety of food sources available in this diet, a stigma has developed for those who call themselves flexitarians. Many people are under the false impression that flexitarians can’t commit to one diet or want to be vegetarians who indulge in the occasional cheeseburger. This isn’t the case.
While flexitarians consume a predominantly plant-based diet, they will sometimes consume meat but not because they can’t find a vegan alternative to pepperoni pizza pockets (we’re sure this exists anyway) – it’s to balance their diet for optimal physical health.
Transitioning at Your Own Pace
It’s important to become knowledgeable about these diets before taking the plunge. Adopting a new diet at a steady pace means you’re giving your body time to adjust. It also helps you avoid nutritional deficiencies.
There are so many resources available online to help you learn more about vegetarianism. You can even take online quizzes to test your knowledge on plant-based foods and dieting.
Ultimately it comes down to making the right choices for you, your body, your beliefs, and overall physical and mental health.
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