Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

Are Vegetarian Diets Becoming More Mainstream?


Vegetarianism is Good for the Planet

A resounding yes and here’s why.

  • The vegan “Skinny Bitch” diet books are best sellers,
  • Vegan staples like tempeh and tofu can be purchased at just about any supermarket.
  • Whole Foods and other more health-conscious supermarkets have invaded smaller town America.  There are at least three where I live in Asheville, NC.
  • Some restaurants eagerly promote their plant-only menu items. We have seven vegetarian restaurants here in my town listed on a Google search and I know of one more.  
  • It’s easier now compared to 10 years ago due to more local produce available and more interesting ways of cooking. It’s not just brown rice, lentils, and steamed vegetables anymore.
  • More people are becoming aware of the harmful environmental effects of large-scale meat production.
  • When 1500 chefs were surveyed by the National Restaurant Association for its new “What’s Hot in 2011, more than half mentioned vegan entrees as a hot trend.

There’s a difference between vegan and vegetarian.  Veganism is more hard-core.  Vegans use no butter, eggs, meat, cheese, honey or mayo.  The most extreme even shun leather shoes if animal welfare is a concern.
It’s difficult to come up with hard numbers of practicing vegans. There’s a fuzzy line between people who define themselves as vegan and vegetarian and some eaters practice plant-only diets now and then.  Many people describe themselves as vegetarians even if they only give up red meats.  It has been estimated that only about 1% of American are truly strict vegan.

How many vegetarian diets are out there?

  • Fruitarians – eat only raw or dried fruits, seeds, and nuts.
  • Lacto-ovo-vegetarian – includes dairy, eggs, vegetables, grains, legumes, fruits, and nuts; excludes flesh and seafood
  • Lacto-vegetarian – includes dairy products, vegetables, grains, legumes, fruits and nuts. Excludes eggs, flesh and seafood.
  • Ovo-vegetarian – includes eggs, vegetables, grain, legumes, fruits, nuts.  Excludes dairy, flesh and seafood.
  • Vegan – includes only food from plant sources; also called strict vegetarian
  • Macrobiotic diet – a vegan diet composed mostly of whole grains, beans, and certain vegetables; taken to extremes have resulted in malnutrition and even death.
  • Partial vegetarian – a term sometimes used to mean an eating style that includes seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, vegetables, grains, legumes, fruits, and nuts; excludes or strictly limits certain meats, such as red meats.  Sometimes called a semi-vegetarian.
  • Pesco-vegetarian – Includes fish but eliminates all other meats
  • Vegetarian – includes plant-based foods and eliminates some or all animal-derived foods.

There are some concerns and dangers for those who do not carefully plan vegetarian diets, especially those avoiding animal-derived foods.

Protein: Consume a variety of plant foods to get the proper amino acids.  A combination of protein-rich soy foods, legumes, nuts, and or seeds should be eaten daily.

Iron: The form of iron in plants is not well absorbed as the type in meat and poultry.  Also phytates in grains and rice and polyphenols in tea and coffee can inhibit iron absorption. Vitamin C helps to absorb the iron in plant foods.

Zinc: The absorption of zinc is enhanced by animal protein.  Phytate also binds zinc, making it unavailable to your body,

Calcium: Obviously, restricting dairy products such as yogurt, milk, and cheese can lead to a deficiency.  Eating an abundance of green vegetables, however, can provide calcium.

Vitamin D: Some vegetarians need to consume vitamin-D fortified soy products or fortified cereals.

Omega-3 fatty acids – the plant forms of omega-3 fats are not as efficiently converted to EPA and DHA (found in fish oil only)

Some of the Pros:

  • They are filling due to an abundance of high-fiber foods.
  • They offer health and environmental benefits if well-planned.

Some of the Cons:

  • They are restrictive.
  • They can be lots of work due to the restriction of  food groups.

Bottom Line:

  • Why not practice Meatless Mondays or Wednesdays or whatever day you choose.
  • Look at MyPlate to visualize the amount of protein foods on your plate.
  • Even if you don’t want to take the plunge into veganism, it bears repeating that a diet of mostly plants is good for your health.  Or you might consider a Mediterranean- style diet, which includes seafood and some meat and dairy; it has been strongly associated with a longer life span and the reduced risk of chronic diseases.
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3 thoughts on “Are Vegetarian Diets Becoming More Mainstream?

  1. Pingback: Becoming a vegetarian: Pros and cons | Bangari Content Gallery

  2. Pingback: Eating Animals « Dianabuja's Blog

  3. Great resource here, I appreciate the even-handedness you bring a topic like vegetarianism. Keep up the good work!


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