Posted in: Anaemia, diabetes mellitus, Weight Management

The Health Benefits of Adopting a Vegetarian Diet

A vegetarian diet basically focuses on foods from plants, like fruits, legumes, vegetables, and grains. 

The vegetarian diet has become quite famous over the years, as research has linked it strongly with promoting weight loss, prevention and management of diabetes, and prevention of even chronic illnesses like heart disease and cancer.

What are the different groups of a vegetarian diet?

  1. The strict vegans are the most strict group of vegetarians, as they exclude all meats and animal products like eggs, milk, fish, and even poultry.
  2. Lacto vegetarians include dairy products like milk and cheese in addition to plant foods.
  3. Lacto ovo vegetarians eat some eggs, dairy products, and plant foods.
  4. others like flexitarians occasionally may include some meats, eggs, and milk products in their diet.

What are the benefits of a vegetarian diet?

People get into a vegetarian diet for different reasons, when the vegetarian diet is well planned and well balanced it can really help in;

Weight management 

You may also need to change your diet when you are looking for ways to shed some weight. 

The fact that the vegetarian diet may exclude meat and other animal products, makes it a good choice of diet for weight loss.

Meats and animal products may contain lots of saturated fats, which eventually would always lead to unnecessary weight gain.

The vegetarian diet encourages the intake of plant foods that contain sufficient amounts of dietary fiber which helps a lot in weight loss. That is in addition to providing substantial amounts of vitamins and minerals that promote health in general.

Management of diabetes

Maintaining blood sugar levels at a normal range is one common goal for all diabetics. 

Diet changes have been shown to help big time in keeping sugar levels in check.

In the diabetic plate model for portion control, diabetics are encouraged to fill half of their plate with vegetables, for more dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Dietary fiber is important as it helps to slow down digestion, encouraging glucose to get absorbed slowly hence preventing Sudden spikes in blood glucose levels.

Being on a vegetarian diet can therefore be a  good choice when looking to maintain a normal blood glucose level.

However, there’s a need to eat a variety of foods to attain a balance of all the vitamins and minerals that your body needs, and most importantly to prevent deficiencies.

Prevention of cardiovascular diseases.

The vegetarian diet is heart-friendly. As it doesn’t encourage too much intake of saturated fats.

Saturated fats always cause a build up of plaques.

These plaques then may block the flow of blood to the heart causing heart attacks or block the flow of blood to the brain causing a stroke. These conditions are actually life-threatening.

The advantage of the vegetarian diet is that it has already reduced the intake of Saturated fat. By reducing your intake of animal products like meat and poultry, you can reduce your intake of saturated fats as well. And that is what makes the vegetarian diet good for the heart.

What nutrients are you missing out when on a vegan diet?

  • Iron deficiency presents with a feeling of dizziness, fatigue, and a fast heartbeat. Most foods rich in iron are from animal sources like red meats, poultry, fish, and eggs. A strict vegan can easily miss out on iron when they don’t include a variety of foods that contain iron. Plant sources of iron include spinach, lentils, and even kale. Eating more of these foods can prevent possible iron deficiency.
  • Vitamin D deficiency, vitamin D is important for bone health. Animal sources provide the most sufficient amounts of vitamin D like milk, fish, and egg yolks, but a vegan can still get vitamin D from soya and fortified foods to prevent deficiencies.
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency, the most common sources of vitamin B12 are animal products like red meats and poultry. A lack of vitamin B12 can lead to anaemia, which presents with lots of fatigue and numbness. To prevent vitamin B12 deficiency when you are a strict vegan, you should include fortified foods, cereals, and plant foods rich in vitamin B12 like mushrooms in your diet.

What foods should you eat?

  1. Protein-rich foods, like legumes (beans, soya)
  2. More fruits and vegetables to get sufficient amounts of vitamins and minerals.
  3. Healthy fats, from plants like olive oil.
  4. Grains like whole wheat, rice, millet, and sorghum.

Being on any group vegetarian diet should not make you deficient in any nutrients. Including a variety of foods is important to keep your body functioning as it should.

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