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Why being a pure vegetarian may be a BAD IDEA

Last updated on: December 26, 2011 19:12 IST

Why being a pure vegetarian may be a BAD IDEA

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Payal Banka, Lifemojo.com

Being vegetarian does have its plust points but find out what you may be missing when you drop meat from your meals.

A vegetarian diet may include different variety of food from plant sources. It may or may not include some food from animal sources. Dairy products and eggs can also form part of vegetarian diet. Another variety of vegetarian diet may exclude underground vegetables like tubers, potatoes, onion, ginger and garlic.

If we look closely we can find out what aspect of nutrition each of this category have or does not have. Such a study can help us add suitable supplements.

Different types of vegetarians:

Are you a vegetarian? You may feel that the answer would either be yes or no! But it really isn't so easy. The word 'vegetarian' can mean any one of the following categories. Generally the consumers of plants and plant based food like vegetables, fruits, legumes and cereals, are vegetarians. They can be divided into the following four types:

Vegetarians: People, who consume only plant products like greens, fruits, vegetables, grains and pulses or legumes.

Lacto vegetarians: People, who include dairy products like milk, yogurt, cheese and paneer (cottage cheese), in addition to all the plant food.

Ovo-lacto vegetarians: People, who eat all plant food, dairy products and eggs.

Semi-vegetarians/flexitarians: People, who consume all the food mentioned above, as well as meat occasionally. Either they have given up on meat or are not very fond of meat, and hence, they consume meat rarely.

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Is a vegetarian diet adequately nutritious?

No single food contains all the nutrients. Therefore it is necessary to include a variety of food items in your diet to ensure that the important nutrients are not missed. If you don't choose your food correctly, there are chances that your diet might not provide you with the required amount of certain nutrients like iron, calcium, vitamin B12, omega 3 fatty acids etc. But there are ways by which you can ensure the sufficient intake of these nutrients.

Fibre

Vegetarians have a definite advantage over some non-vegetarians when it comes to fibre as they consume enough amount of fibre through variety of fruits and vegetables. Fibre helps in protecting a vegetarian's health in various ways. It helps lower the bad cholesterol and blood sugar level, and improves heart health.

It also helps against various digestive system related cancers and in proper bowel functioning.



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Calcium

Calcium forms the base for our bone health and is essential for both men and women, especially, after 40 years of age. Milk and dairy being the main source of calcium, vegetarians should make sure that they include milk, curds, cheese and paneer in their food. Vegans need to include green leafy vegetables and calcium fortified tofu and legumes.

Vitamin D helps in the absorption of calcium, and hence, exposing to the early morning sun is essential to get a good supply of vitamin D. Oxalates and phytates present in certain food (such as spinach, beans and sweet potato) hinder calcium absorption.




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Iron

Iron is essential for synthesis of haemoglobin, an oxygen carrying molecules in the blood. Meat and other animal foods contain iron in a form (heme iron) which can be absorbed easily, while the iron from the vegetarian source (non-heme iron) cannot be absorbed so easily.

Iron is absorbed better in an acidic medium. Hence, adding tomatoes or lemon juice to preparations made with green leafy vegetables rich in iron will aid iron absorption. Consuming citrus fruits also enhances iron absorption from vegetarian sources.

Calcium, phytates and tannins interfere in iron absorption. Tea and coffee contain tannins, and legumes and grains contain phytates. Iron supplements should be taken if a person is deficient in iron and the diet fails to fulfill a person's requirement.



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Vitamin B12

Research has proved that sea food, dairy products, eggs and meat alone have consumable vitamin B12. No plant based food has this. Its deficiency can lead to severe nerve damage and anemia. Vegans need to ensure that they consume vitamin B12 fortified food items such as nutri-grain products, nutritional yeast and soy products.



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Omega-3 fatty acids

Fish is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. This nutrient helps heart health by slowing the progression of atherosclerosis (build up of plaque in the walls of arteries) and reduces the level of bad cholesterol. It is good for brain development too and also helps in treating depression. Vegetarians should include flaxseeds, almonds and walnuts in their daily diet to get adequate omega 3 fatty acids.

Variety is the spice of life. We need to have a rich variety of food to supply ourselves with all the nutrients that are necessary. Good health may be at stake if our diet is deficient of important vitamins and minerals.



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