Contrary to popular belief, the fact that vegetarians are, on average, about 10 percent leaner than omnivores does not make them less healthy or lacking in nutrients. The prevalence of hypertension among vegetarian is about ⅓ to ½ compared to that of non-vegetarians and cancer rates for vegetarians is an astronomical 25 to 50 percent below the population average, even after controlling for smoking, BMI (Body mass index) and socioeconomic status.
All the while, cholesterol levels are much lower amongst vegetarians with widespread knowledge that fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants which protect cells against oxidative damage, which is related to cancer risk and other health problems. [Source: Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine]
There are several types of vegetarian practices. Being a vegan means one abstains from all meat, poultry, seafood, all dairy products and eggs. A lacto-ovo vegetarian is one who does not consume meat, poultry or seafood but consumes dairy foods and eggs. However, an ovo vegetarian restricts to only eating eggs and no dairy products, meat, poultry or seafood. A lacto vegetarian avoids meat, poultry, seafood and eggs but consumes dairy foods.
One of the leading myths pertaining to vegetarianism is the belief that it is not nutritious enough for growing kids and teenagers. This is false; kids can get all the nutrients is required from a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet. Special care must be taken if kids are vegan (no eggs/dairy) and parental involvement is important in planning a vegan diet. In some cases, a consultation with a dietitian and a multivitamin supplement may be needed to attain a sufficient, balanced diet.
Another myth is that limiting yourself to a vegetarian or vegan diet means your body will become too “cold”. In this case, variety is key; not all fruits and vegetables are “cold”! Vegetables such as squashes and onions, fruits like lychee and guava are all “warm” plants. Including nuts and seeds and cooking with condiments such as ginger, chili, curry powder, garlic, green onions, and vinegar can also provide “warming” effects.
Finally, it is not true that a vegetarian diet will cause you to be anaemic. 12% of women have iron-deficiency anemia, the risk factor here is actually gender-specific, and is not related to having following a vegetarian diet. You can include iron-rich foods in every meal; pairing with vitamin C-rich foods in your recipes or diet is the best way to boost absorption.
There are many ways to attain sufficient levels of protein within vegetarian diets. For adults, 1-2 servings of protein-rich food per meal is sufficient; this is equivalent to 2 egg whites, 1 egg, 1/3 firm beancurd, 1 stick or 2/3 sheet of beancurd, 1/4 cup of nuts/seeds, 4 tpsp of beans, 1.5 slices of cheese, 1 cup of yogurt, or 1 cup of soy milk or milk.
Omega-3 ranks among the most essential nutrients. It benefits your heart’s health, normalizes and regulates cholesterol triglyceride levels, and improves mental skills. Omega-3 is rich within chia seeds and flax seeds.
Calcium and absorption levels vary within the vegetarian diet as in an omnivore diet. It is richer in some vegetables than even dairy foods. Cauliflower, watercress, cabbage, brussels sprouts, rutabaga, kale, mustard greens, bok choy, broccoli, and turnip greens allows for over 50% absorption. Milk, calcium-fortified soy milk, calcium-set tofu, cheese, yogurt, and calcium-fortified foods and beverages allows for approximately 30% absorption; almonds, sesame seeds, pinto beans, and sweet potatoes allows for approximately 20% absorption. Spinach, rhubarb and Swiss chard allows for less than 5% absorption levels.
Just as different colors represent different moods in psychology, the rainbow palette can also be categorized in terms of nutrients in the world of food. White foods such as cauliflower, ginger, garlic, jicama and potatoes prevent or fight off infection; red foods such as red apples, blood oranges, raspberries, tomatoes, and red onions help maintain a healthy heart; orange and yellow foods such as oranges, bell peppers, apricots, pumpkin, and corn benefits eyes and heart health and boosts the immune system; green foods such as apples, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cucumbers, grapes, and kiwi actually contain properties which strengthen bones and teeth, while blue and purple foods such as blueberries, blackberries, purple cabbage, plums, figs, and eggplants improve memory function and aid in healthy aging.