Vegetarian Diet: What you need to know!

Vegetarian diets are quite popular for various reasons especially for the health benefits such as decreased risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. A vegetarian diet requires planning but it can work for people of all ages and the majority of health conditions. The key to this diet is to pay attention to your nutritional needs. Vegetarians vary on what they eat; it is not a one size fits all kind of diet. Our medical team acknowledges that it’s hard to follow a strictly plant based diet but agree that an anti-inflammatory diet which is plant based is absolutely ideal for health.

Types of Vegetarian diets:

  • Pollotarian: Poultry is allowed but excludes meat, fish and dairy.
  • Vegan: Excludes fish, eggs, dairy, poultry and meat products- also any foods that contain these products.
  • Pescatarian: Excludes poultry, dairy, eggs and meat but allows fish.
  • Ovo-vegetarian: Excludes meat, seafood, dairy and poultry products, but allows eggs.
  • Lacto-vegetarian: Excludes fish, meat, eggs, and poultry or any foods that contain them. Any dairy products are allowed- including butter, yogurt, cheese, and milk.
  • Lacto-ovo vegetarian: Excludes poultry, fish and meat but allows eggs and dairy products.

Some individuals will follow a semi vegetarian diet that is more flexible. This type of diet plan is primarily plant based but also includes in small quantities or on occasion fish, poultry, meat, eggs, and dairy.

 

What you need to Know

Like all types of diets, variety is important. You need to provide your body with a variety of nutrients. No single food item can provide enough nutrients for your body, which is why it is important to talk to a dietician if you are confused. A vegan diet, for instance, eliminates the natural sources of vitamin B-12 as well as dairy, which is a main source of calcium. It is important that you pay special attention to these nutrients:

  • Vitamin B-12: This vitamin is essential to produce red blood cells and is found almost exclusively in animal products. When you are deficient it can go undetected so ensure you are taking vitamin B12 supplements.
  • Calcium and Vitamin D: Calcium plays an important role in bone health, so search for vegan friendly sources like spinach, kale, broccoli, and calcium fortified ones like healthy cereals.
  • Protein: A good source of protein for a vegan diet includes plant based foods, soy products, meat substitutes, legumes, lentils, seeds, nuts, and whole grains.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: Great essential fatty acids include ground flaxseed, soybeans, walnuts, soy oil, and canola oil.
  • Iron and zinc: You can get good sources of iron from lentils, peas, dried beans, enriched cereals, whole-grain products, dried fruit, and dark leafy green vegetables. Plant sources of zinc include soy products, legumes, nuts, whole grains, and wheat germ.
  • Iodine: Iodine regulates your metabolism, functioning and growth of key organs. Just ΒΌ tsp of iodized salt per day can balance the amount of iodine in your body.

 

Get started!

It is important before you transition to a vegan diet that you do it gradually and with flexibility. You will start by reducing your meat intake while increasing your vegetables and fruits. For meals, you can easily substitute meat protein from popular choices of beans, tofu, or many other simple substitutions.

There are a variety of vegetarian recipes available on the internet, and on this site so experiment and discover what you enjoy!