Being a vegetarian is still something of a conversation killer even in today’s health conscious society. “What do you eat then?” is muttered quietly whilst images of the gourmet meat pies are tossed aside for green salads at the next dinner party.
Vegetarianism has actually shown a slight decline over the last decade although statistics have shown that many people have been a vegetarian at one period in their life. But overall, the vegetarian lifestyle is still as popular as ever as shown by the ever increasing range of vegetarian products and meat substitutes entering the market.
Whilst the vegetarian terms may seem confusing at first – the concept behind the terms are actually quiet easy to follow.
Lacto-Ovo – Most people when they hear the term vegetarian would think of a lacto-ovo. The term refers to people who do not eat any fish or meat but who do eat dairy products and eggs.
Ovo – This term refers to vegetarians who will eat eggs but will not eat any dairy products in their diet.
Lacto – Refers to a person who will not eat any meat or eggs in their diet but who will eat dairy products.
Vegan – Vegans are the strictest form of vegetarians as they do not eat any form of animal product or by-product.
Semi – The term semi-vegetarian has become increasingly popular with the rise of the so called “fad diet”. This category is set aside for people who want to try the vegetarian lifestyle but who still enjoy the occasional hamburger.
Many vegetarians choose this lifestyle not only for the health benefits associated with it but also for their belief against animal cruelty and associations such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) now champion animal rights.
Before the advantages of the vegetarian lifestyle were well documented we assumed that vegetarians were insipid, thin, pale creatures but with the number of famous celebrities such as Pamela Anderson, Paul McCartney and Alicia Silverstone touting the benefits, the attitude has been given a more positive makeover.
Vegetarians can run the risk of suffering from a lack of iron, protein, Vitamin B and calcium if they do not balance their diets. But a little bit of education and knowledge of vegetarian sources should ensure that this does not occur. Protein can easily be found by eating nuts, seeds, tofu, veggie burgers and grains. Vitamin B2 can be found by eating leafy green vegetables, almonds and mushrooms and many vegetarian products are now fortified with Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D as an aid against any deficiency which may occur. Calcium can be found in tofu, leafy green vegetables, dried fruit, watercress and many of the soy milks found on the markets are calcium fortified.
Dining out can also pose a problem as many restaurants still have few vegetarian options and some vegetarian products may be more expensive than their meat counterparts.
The upside about being a vegetarian is that you do not have to worry about raising cholesterol levels by eating too much red meat. Research has also shown that many vegetarians suffer less from obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, type II diabetes, diet related cancers, constipation and gall stones.
Even if you don’t embrace the vegetarian lifestyle wholeheartedly, trying a veggie meal once in a while certainly can’t do you any harm.