There are basically two main types of vegetarians – a lacto vegetarian, who excludes the use of meat, fish and poultry; and a strict vegetarian (or Vegan) who, on top of meat, fish and poultry, also excludes dairy products in their diet.
Benefits of Vegetarianism:
1. Vegetarianism is certainly a healthier way of eating. Many of the Western diseases are of recent origin and diet-related. Too great an intake of animal fats leads to an increase in the incidence of heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
2. Vegetarian diet contains more fiber than meat or poultry. Fiber plays an essential part in the way our body handles the food we eat, but they do not contain the saturated animal fats which are harmful to our health. Fiber not only helps regulate bowel movements but also reduces the risk of diverticulitis and cancer of the bowel.
3. There is no worry of food preservatives, flavorings and colorings on health as vegetarian diets are mostly based on whole food, i.e. foods to which nothing has been added or taken away.
4. It is far cheaper to eat vegetables, nuts and fruits than meat, fish or poultry.
5. A recent study by NASA scientists has revealed an alarming data that the Earth is warming at a remarkably rapid rate. A new report from the Food and Agriculture organization of the United Nations estimated that enteric fermentation by ruminants are responsible for 20% of greenhouse gases emissions. By going vegetarian, we help to eliminate one of the major causes of global warming impacting Earth today.
How to Embark on Vegetarian Diets
You may find it difficult to cut out meat, fish and poultry all at once, especially before you have become skilled at preparing the alternatives. For a good first step, you may not wish to become a strict vegetarian but simply to reduce the amount of meat intake. To start with:
1. Try to include two or three vegetarian meals each week. As you and your family begin to acquire the taste for vegetarian food, you can gradually omit more animal protein from your diet.
2. Get hold of a good vegetarian cookbook to give you more pleasure and delights of vegetarian cookery as well as fresh ideas. The cookbook will also give you and idea of which foods are best served together.
3. Meat, poultry and fish are prime sources of the protein essential to health, so you must seek for alternative sources. These can be found in nuts, seeds, legumes (beans and pulses) and to a lesser extent, in whole grains.
4. Ensure a properly balanced diet by having all four main food groups within a vegetarian diet, namely beans, nuts and seeds; grains; dairy products; and fruits and vegetables. Include something from each group in your daily vegetarian diet to get all the nutrients you need.
5. Try to include a different grain, for example bean or pulse dish whenever possible to provide you with different combinations of flavors and textures so that your vegetarian diet is rich and varied.
Some Tips for Preparing Vegetarian Meals
1. Use whole-wheat flour and pasta and brown rice as they have more flavor than their white equivalents.
2. Breadcrumbs, preferably whole-wheat, are used in many vegetarian diets and it is a good idea to keep a supply in the freezer for use at a moment’s notice. This is especially relevant when you are embarking on a new style of eating where more time will be spent in the planning and preparation of meals initially.
3. Beans are also used extensively in vegetarian diets, so cook large quantities, bag them in usable portions and freeze, they’ll then be ready for use within an hour.
4. Always keep the water in which you have boiled vegetables for use as a stock. For extra flavor, use shoyu yeast extract or vegetable concentrates.
There are several reasons for taking up a vegetarian diet, the most obvious being the dislike of breeding animals for slaughter. But, the most important reason is simply because people nowadays know it is better for their health. And the most vital and humane reason is to help reduce atmospheric carbon emission to a safer level that we can live with.