Thinking about becoming a vegetarian or vegan? Read this first.

October 1st officially kicked off Vegetarian Awareness Month. This is a great time to explore the different types of vegetarian diets, their benefits and how removing meat from your everyday meals can affect you. There are different levels of vegetarianism, where different food products can be incorporated and left out. What distinguishes these different diets is the absence of animal products. Here are a few examples of different vegetarian diets:

  • Lacto-ovo-vegetarian: This diet includes eggs and dairy products (such as milk and cheese)
  • Lacto-vegetarian: This diet doesn’t include the consumption of eggs, but dairy products are still consumed.

  • Ovo-vegetarian: This diet includes eggs, but doesn’t include dairy products.

  • Pesci-vegetarian: This diet includes the consumption of fish.

  • Semi-vegetarian: This diet includes the consumption of fish as well as poultry.

  • Vegan: This diet includes only the consumption of food from plant sources. No dairy products, eggs, meat or honey is consumed. 

There are many health benefits that come from vegetarian diets. For example, when done right, these vegetarian diets are low in cholesterol and saturated fats. This means that the risk of heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes and hypertension is significantly smaller. The high intake of antioxidants, carotenoids and fibre have several health benefits. Another good part about reducing ones intake of meat is the positive effect one our figure. Sticking to a vegetarian diet reduces our calorie intake, which can help you stay in shape easier. Vegetarians are also generally more aware of healthy food and typically eat less junk food. 

Something that vegetarians often focus on is protein intake, but following a high-carbohydrate, mineral-rich and vitamin filled diet is optimal for sports performances. The number of world-class vegetarian sportsmen continues to rise, for example Lewis Hamilton and Venus Williams have both cut out meat in their diets. If sports and vegetarianism interest you, you should check out the documentary “The Game Changers”, which is in theatres now. There are a few things to reflect on when considering a meatless diet. The American Dietetic Associaiton has some tips for people who are considering becoming a vegetarian:

  • Choose whole-grain products, such as brown rice and whole-wheat bread

  • Ensure a sufficient intake of vitamin D

  • Follow a varied diet, include fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes ect.

  • Reduce your intake of high-sugar and high-fat foods

  • Keep your iron, omega-3 and zinc levels in check

Here are some food procucts to include into your diet:

  • Legumes and beans (chickpeas for example are a great source of protein)

  • Nuts, peanut butter, almond milk, other nut butters

  • Eggs and dairy products

  • Seeds and whole-grain products

  • Soy protein (such as tofu)