Some call the diets of vegetarians plant-based. People become vegetarians for a variety of reasons, including: personal preference, ethical or environmental concerns, or religious reasons. There are some sub-groups of vegetarians, but the most basic, overall diet of a vegetarian excludes meat, seafood, and products that come from meat or seafood. Vegetarians can also be called “herbivores.”
You ask, “what’s the difference between a vegetarian and a vegan diet?” The main difference among vegetarians and vegans is that a vegetarian does not exclude dairy and eggs as a vegan would. The lifestyle and common goal is the same– to promote health. So, the chief characteristic of vegetarians is the exclusion of meat products, and the chief characteristic of vegans is the exclusion of animal products.
Anyone can become a vegetarian: athletes, pregnant or lactating women, infants, and children. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics confirms that a vegetarian diet can meet “all known nutritional needs.” There are innumerable health benefits from becoming a vegetarian. Some of these benefits:
- lower risk of death from heart disease
- lower cholesterol levels
- lower blood pressure & hypertension
- lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes
Removing meat products help your health because you will be reducing saturated fats in your diet, and replacing them with high levels of fiber and phytochemicals, which are heart-healthy nutrients found in whole fruits and vegetables. A lot of clients ask “how will I get my protein?” Plants and vegetables contain protein; broccoli contains more protein than meat. So, as long as you integrate a good variety of foods in your diet, you should not have any nutritional deficits.
It is very important for vegetarians to be cautious when introducing new items into their diet, like tofu. Tofu can be highly-processed, and is not the best source of protein. Also, it is common for vegetarians to consume higher levels of carbohydrates than a meat-eater. While carbohydrates are not harmful when consumed in moderation, this can become a problem for some vegetarians. Always go for the whole grain carbohydrate, instead of a simple carbohydrate, like potatoes. Complex carbohydrates have more fiber, and give you a stable energy source because they are not broken down as fast as simple carbohydrates. This concept applies to everyone– meat eaters, vegetarians, and vegans.
Not only does vegetarianism help you– it also helps the environment. Although there are some food service organizations who raise and use humanely-treated animals, the majority are subject to extreme cruelty, like inhumane slaughtering practices and cramped living spaces, among many other instances. Becoming a vegetarian has countless benefits. It’s not just about “not eating meat,” while you will not consume meat as a vegetarian, you are caring for your body, mind, and soul, and harmless animals.
You can ease into the transition of becoming vegetarian. Some start by implementing “Meatless Monday.” If you can’t do it all at once, don’t get discouraged. It is a big transition to make, and a learning process. Which is why there are helpful resources, like the Raw Green Chica and the Green Chica’s Model, which will help you reach your diet and lifestyle goals. It’s not easy, but it’ definitely worth it!