It is a fact that, in the past, vegetarians were often seen as being somewhat eccentric or belonging to some odd sect. However, in recent years, the benefits of vegetarianism are becoming more and more attractive to many people. This includes not only the possible health benefits but also the economic benefits as well.
Vegetarianism is a preference that people have in which they choose to eat only vegetables and other plant products in preference to meat and other animal products. However, it includes more than just diet, involving a complete way of life. This life often includes yoga, spiritualism, homeopathy and other natural ways of living.
During the last century, there has been a significant increase in the knowledge of nutrition and the dietary value of fruits and vegetables. People have begun to steer away from the heavy meat-based meals and are leaning more toward the lighter, healthier and more balanced diets.
The reasons for choosing vegetarianism are varied but may be based on economic, ecological, spiritual, or emotional preferences. Often, people who become interested in such pursuits as spiritualism may switch to vegetarianism as a result of the teachings and the beliefs that are followed. Sometimes, of course, a person may simply dislike the taste of meat or other animal products.
There are five main groups of vegetarianism. The least rigorous are those vegetarians who eat white meat and animal products but will not eat red meat.
There are then the vegetarians who will eat no flesh at all but will eat other dairy products such as milk and cheese and they will also eat eggs.
Another group avoids all flesh but will eat dairy products such as milk and cheese. However, they will not eat eggs because they see eggs as flesh because they are considered as embryos.
Next are those who eat a diet of whole grains, cereals and vegetables as well as eating fish. This diet is part of a yoga lifestyle and is known as macrobiotics. People who follow the macrobiotic lifestyle believe that spiritual imbalance is the cause of disease and that this imbalance is restored by awareness of food origins. It is believed that many of the toxins in the body are a result of the consumption of flesh.
Finally, there are those who totally avoid any animal products or any flesh. These people are known as vegans. Those who follow the vegan lifestyle abhor the methods used in dairy farming and in meat production and see the eating of animal products and meat as adding to the cruelty endured by animals destined for the dinner table.
There are definitely some health benefits to vegetarianism because of the low saturated fat and high fibre associated with a vegetarian diet. This is particularly beneficial for heart and digestive health. However, plant protein is considerably lower than animal protein. It is therefore important that the vegetarian diet includes a variety of cereals, nuts, oil seeds, and legumes that contain high levels of protein.
Another health benefit is that vegetarians suffer less from obesity. In people who eat meat and other animal products, the fat accumulates in the coronary arteries, thus leading to an increased risk of heart attack. In vegetarian communities, heart disease is virtually non-existent.
They also have less problems with conditions such as constipation and intestinal diseases due to the high fibre in their diet. A vegetarian diet has also been known to improve diseases such as asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, and migraine.
Before you go rushing into vegetarianism however, it is important to consider other factors of health. When someone switches to a vegetarian diet, they commonly lose weight and this can lead to a feeling of lethargy. Weight loss can be particularly serious in someone who is already underweight.
There are also some conditions that are connected to veganism in particular. One of these conditions is called spinal ataxia which is evidenced by a stooped appearance with unsteady balance and a loss of sensation in the lower limbs. This condition is caused by a deficiency of vitamin B. Another serious condition is megaloblastic anemia, a blood deficiency also caused by a deficiency of vitamin B. it is therefore important to take a vitamin B supplement. This only affects vegans as vitamin B is found in eggs and cheese.
Plant foods also lack vitamin D but this can be found in sunlight. However, it is unwise to expose young children to too much sun. A vitamin D supplement can be taken in the form of drops.
Choosing a diet that is right for yourself and your family should be a carefully planned process, taking into account the pros and cons of each one. The main consideration, regardless of whether you choose vegetarianism or not, is to eat a diet which is properly balanced with the appropriate amounts of proteins, vitamins and minerals, carbohydrates and fats.
If you have been a meat eater and are considering the change to vegetarianism, it would be wise to first consult a dietician so as to avoid sending your body into shock. A gradual transition should make things more comfortable.
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