A vegetarian diet excludes or limits animal flesh and products. Becoming a vegetarian is a big choice. For most people, it means changing a lifetime of eating behaviors.
You might switch to a vegetarian diet for health reasons or personal beliefs. Some people care about the ethics of using and harming animals. Other concerns include the effects of the food industry on our environment. Some religious groups ban eating certain foods.
Whatever your reasons, becoming a vegetarian is an adjustment. You’ll need to learn new habits and replace old food choices. When dining out, check out the restaurant’s online menu ahead of time. It also helps to surround yourself with other like-minded people.
Path to improved health
There are several types of vegetarian diets. You should choose one based on your health needs and personal beliefs.
- Lacto-ovo-vegetarians do not eat meat, poultry, or fish. They do eat eggs and dairy products.
- Lacto-vegetarians do not eat meat, poultry, fish, or eggs. They do eat dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese.
- Ovo-vegetarians do not eat meat, poultry, fish, or dairy. They do eat eggs.
- Flexitarians (also called semi-vegetarians) are not traditional. They continue to eat meat, poultry, fish, and animal products in small amounts. This diet is more common for people who only have health-related concerns. A flexitarian diet can help you reduce the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol you eat. It also helps you increase the amount of vegetables, fruits, and grains in your diet.
- Pesco-vegetarians do not eat meat or poultry as part of their vegetarian diet, but they do eat fish.
- Vegans avoid meat, eggs, dairy, and animal products. This includes animal byproducts, such as gelatin and honey.
Vegetarian diets can be challenging but may be worth the effort. Benefits of a meatless diet may include:
- Lower cholesterol levels.
- Lower blood pressure.
- Lower intake of saturated fats.
- Decreased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers.
- Healthier body weights.
A successful vegetarian diet means more than saying no to meat. Like everyone, vegetarians must be careful to eat foods that are balanced and nutritious. Although fruits and vegetables are a great source of nutrients, they aren’t all created equal. Some nutrients found in animal products are hard to get in other foods. You need to plan your diet carefully. This helps you prevent malnutrition and enjoy a healthy lifestyle.
Omega-3 fatty acids improve your heart health and brain function. Flaxseed meal and oil are two good sources. You also can look for food products fortified with omega-3 from a plant source. Talk to your doctor about taking an omega-3 supplement. If you are vegan, check the label to make sure it doesn’t come from fish oil.