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8 reasons to be vegetarian, at least once every few days

Fruits and vegetables

With many celebrities declaring that they’ve turned vegetarian, vegetarianism has received a glam status. But if it’s merely an ‘in thing’, how can one explain so many people permanently choosing to stay vegetarian? It’s not hard to see why…

    1. More nutritious: A vegetarian diet is low in calories, high in fibre, vitamins and minerals. The Journal of American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada states that a well-planned vegetarian diet at all stages of life is healthful, nutritionally adequate and is beneficial in treating certain diseases.
    2. Better health returns: According to a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Health and Human Services, compared to non-vegetarian diets, vegetarian style of eating shows improved health outcomes in areas where obesity, heart diseases and blood pressure is concerned. According to the Journal of American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada [2003], vegetarian diets supply fewer portions of unhealthy saturated fat and cholesterol [responsible for many lifestyle diseases] than non-vegetarian diets.
    3. Good for the waistline: The fibre in vegetarian food tends to fill us up and slows down digestion, which is what gives us the feeling of fullness for long, helping us resist the cookie jar. Eating such nutrient–dense, low-calorie foods is bound to reflect on your measurements.
    4. A good change: Eating the same old heavy menu day in and day out, can be a tad boring. An all vegetarian menu for a few days can give a fresh and light break. For the sheer variety you get in vegetarian food, you will want to continue experimenting.
    5. Time saving: A vegetarian meal cooks faster, thus saving precious resources—fuel and time! It makes for a sensible option on days when you are pressed for time, energy and need a meal that is wholesome, easy to prepare and delicious.
    6. Easy on the budget: Did I mention that vegetarian meals are cheaper as compared to non vegetarian meals? Buying vegetarian food saves a lot of money—this is where you can afford to have a wholesome meal consisting of a good bowl of salad or soup, cereals with pulses or legumes and any vegetable, and yet not exceed your budget [and your weight].
    7. Good for skin and hair: Nutrients like vitamins A, C and minerals like iron, zinc, and also antioxidants that are found in abundance in vegetarian foods, are vital for nourishing skin and hair. A regular supply of these nutrients certainly helps skin and hair. Apart from fruits and vegetables, vegetarian diet includes whole grain cereals, pulses, nuts and seeds that contain these nutrients and antioxidants.
    8. Feels more energetic: The lightness we feel after eating a vegetarian meal is surprising. A vegetarian meal is easy to digest and will not make you feel heavy after eating. It will also leave you feeling energetic throughout the day, unlike lethargic, which typically happens after eating a non-vegetarian meal.

However, merely leaving out meat from your diet will not make you healthy. It’s the food you choose that’s important. If you eat more refined, sugary or processed foods, turning to vegetarianism won’t help much. However, it will do you loads of good if it’s a nutritionally balanced vegetarian diet, that is not lacking in nutrients like protein, vitamin B12, folic acid, iron, calcium or omega 3 fatty acids [abundant in animal sources] for which you can opt for low fat food products especially dairy products fortified with calcium, vitamin D and B12.

Vegetarian variety

Being vegetarian simply means eating a plant-based diet, which includes fruits and vegetables along with whole grain cereals, legumes, seeds and nuts. However, its perception has evolved over the years giving way to a variety of vegetarians.

  • Lacto ovo vegetarians: Those who avoid meat but include eggs, milk and other dairy products in addition to vegetables and other plant-based food.
  • Lacto vegetarians: Those who include milk and other dairy products in their diet but no eggs.
  • Ovo vegetarians: Those who include eggs but no milk or dairy products in their diet.
  • Semi vegetarians: These individuals just can’t keep their hands off meat and sometimes cheat a little by having poultry along with fish as well as dairy products and eggs.
  • Vegans: These individuals strictly avoid eggs, milk and dairy products.

This was first published in the August 2012 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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Afrah Karmale holds a B.H Sc degree in Foods, Nutrition and Dietetics. She is a consultant nutritionist and dietitian at a leading healthcare firm. Afrah loves to read motivational and inspiring stories. She is also passionate about food, cooking and travelling. In any situation she relies on the 3 Ps of life: Prayer, Perseverance and Patience


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