The conception of a vegetarian diet is recognized all over the world, emphasizing being a diet based on fruits and vegetables . It has an important and growing popularity since it does not contain foods of animal origin.

In the following article we will delve into what a vegetarian diet is, how to start, its benefits and possible risks for consumers.

What is the vegetarian diet?

The vegetarian diet is a diet that is responsible for not consuming any type of animal protein. It includes fruits, vegetables, seeds, legumes, and although there is no specific and isolated type of vegetarian diet , the main objective is to avoid eating meat.

Note: The elimination of animal proteins must be gradual and regular, making a progressive reduction to avoid alterations in the digestive process.

There are different reasons why an individual opts for a vegetarian diet, one of the main reasons being environmentalists. In India , 40% of the population follow a vegetarian diet and in the United States it is at least 2.5% of the adult population. (1)

How to start with a vegetarian diet?

The determination and acquisition of a vegetarian diet must be governed by certain important factors to consider, thus allowing a healthy and successful achievement in the life of the individual. They will be mentioned and described below:

1. Get adequate advice

It is important that a medical professional evaluate before starting a diet, especially if there is any deficit or failure in the body that could become a serious problem later. 

In this sense, the University of San Sebastián produced an article where it addresses the important need for vegetarians and vegans to have professional and nutritional advice, especially during pregnancy and lactation processes, in addition to not only consuming proteins of little biological value. . (two)

To highlight: It is important in the diet to constantly include grains , since they provide significant amounts of protein with high biological value.

2. Phase out meat

As we previously mentioned, the process must be progressive and calm , since the transition is an important process and with an easy capacity to affect or alter digestive transit. Proper planning will avoid the risk of developing disorders or diseases and will allow an improvement in the quality of life.

3. Avoid processed foods

One of the objectives of the vegetarian diet is that most of the products consumed are fresh , thus reducing the chain of processes and the integration of additives and preservatives into the body. 

Note: It happens that, due to ease and the existence of processed foods , there is the possibility of an increase in products of this nature.

4. Maintain the consumption of necessary nutrients

It is important that in order for the objective to be successfully achieved, without jeopardizing the health of our body, the recommended daily consumption of the nutrients that our body needs is maintained.

You should know: Getting enough micronutrients and macronutrients is essential to preserve energy, health, and the proper functioning of all the components of our body.

5. Vary the meals 

A balanced diet allows the integration of all the necessary nutrients that we previously mentioned, in addition to taking care that the diet does not become monotonous and boring. The options and varieties are very wide, so there is a great possibility of taking advantage of all available resources.

Note: Fruits, vegetables, and legumes are incredible and important sources of protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fatty acids, so their correct and balanced use will allow you to lead a healthy lifestyle.

What can you eat on a vegetarian diet?

The vegetarian diet has certain parameters and limitations, which are important to know in order to apply it correctly . We mention below which are the foods that can be consumed under the vegetarian diet: (3) 

1. Vegetables

Vegetables and vegetables are the main sources of protein, carbohydrates and micronutrients in the vegetarian diet. They are consumed fresh or processed, depending on their nature. Vegetables can range from tubers, roots, leafy, stem or fruit vegetables, where we can mention:

  • Onion , garlic, leek.
  • Spinach , chard, lettuce.
  • Asparagus, celery.
  • Eggplant, peppers.
  • Pumpkin, zucchini and cucumber.
  • Beet, carrot, chayote, cabbage.

2. Cereals and legumes 

They are the main source of carbohydrates, mainly starch, in addition to containing proteins of high biological value in significant quantities. They are a source of B vitamins, vitamin C and minerals, also taking advantage of their fiber contributions that favor the digestive process. Among them we can mention:

  • Oats , wheat.
  • Lentils, chickpeas , beans.
  • Rice, barley, corn, rye.
  • Soybean and peanut.

3. Fruits

Due to their nature, fruits have large amounts of water and sugars in their composition, they are a source of vitamins and fibers that are remarkable as the main advantages of this type of food. Its consumption is important, mainly varied for a more extensive use. Among them we can mention:

  • Papaya , melon, pin.
  • Mango, grape, banana.
  • Plums, pears, avocado.
  • Strawberries, oranges, lemon.

4. Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds also provide protein, as well as unsaturated fats. They are a source of fatty acids, tryptophans and amino acids, as well as vitamin E and energy for their consumers. They contain nutrients of high biological value and fibers. Among them we can mention:

What are the benefits of a vegetarian diet?

Due to the nature of the foods eaten in a vegetarian diet, there is a long list of benefits that comes with it. These will be mentioned and described below for your knowledge and use:

1. Promotes cardiovascular health

There are many studies that promote the application of vegetarian diets to reduce the risk of developing disorders or diseases of different natures that affect our body, including cardiovascular orientation.

Important: A research article talks about the reduction of risk of cardiovascular events, allowing not to promote the factors that are usually the reason, through careful diet and the food eaten, providing important and favorable results. (4)

2. Controls blood sugar

A vegetarian diet allows better control of insulin in the body, and there is also a reduction in pathological risks due to the nature of the components of the diet. 

You should know: However, the reduction and subsequent elimination of meat in the diet of individuals has proven its influence over time and studies carried out to benefit patients with type 2 diabetes , mainly in the glycemic index in hours of the morning. (5)

3. Eliminates toxins from the body

A vegetarian diet means, as we have been following, the increase in the consumption of natural products and much less processed, which means that it is a diet low in toxins, also conferring diuretic properties.

Note: The proper care and functioning of organs such as kidneys and liver, allow our body to process and eliminate toxins more efficiently.

4. Improves digestive functions

The increased consumption of fibers and water allows the digestive transit and its mechanisms to develop correctly and healthy, thus favoring the functions of the digestive system with the diet.

5. Contributes to weight loss

Notably, one short-term effect of starting a vegetarian diet is weight loss. In this sense, a study carried out at the Hospital Nutrition and Dietetics Clinic mentions the efficacy of these diets for reducing the risk of obesity and weight loss in patients who require it. 

Note: Therefore, the vegetarian diet produces a healthy loss of kilograms and abdominal fat, with a lower ketone risk than other commonly applied diets . (6)

6. Improves skin health

The amount of vitamins and antioxidants that are given to our body by eating natural foods, allow the care and revitalization of the skin and cells that are part of the structure of our nails and hair, in addition to the increase in collagen production, which greatly benefits these elements.

7. Reduces the risk of cancer

According to medical studies carried out, vegetarian individuals have a 12% lower risk of suffering from or developing cancer cells. 

Initially we can highlight the reduction of additives and processed products , but it is also evident that the nature of the foods eaten in the vegetarian diet, confer great qualities and beneficial medicinal properties to the body of its consumers. (7)

What are the risks of eating a vegetarian diet?

It is important to mention the existence of certain risks , which we must take into account before choosing to practice certain diets. They will be mentioned and described below for their consideration and prevention:

1. Nutritional deficiencies

As we mentioned before, the reduction and subsequent elimination of certain foods from our diet can cause a nutritional deficiency with serious long-term consequences, so it is important to follow an adequate eating plan and supervised by a medical or nutritional professional.

2. Anemia, tiredness and fatigue

Anemia, tiredness and fatigue can be direct consequences of a nutritional deficiency caused by repressing certain needs of the body in terms of food, so it is very important to adequately replace and maintain the biological molecules that we need for our proper functioning . .

3. Bone and muscle weakening

The lack of vitamins and minerals, mainly, are reason enough for a bone and muscle weakening in our system, since they are the main engines of their proper functioning 

Important: Health is paramount and must be our priority. The presence of symptoms such as weakness and constant fatigue should be an alarm that we should not ignore .

Key Findings

  • The vegetarian diet is a diet where the consumption of products of animal origin is limited. 
  • This diet has increased its popularity over time, especially for environmental reasons and principles.
  • It is important that an adequate consumption of nutrients is maintained and that the elimination of animal proteins is gradual and progressive.
  • This type of diet allows obtaining innumerable benefits due to the nature of the food consumed , thus improving many functions of our body and preventing the development of serious diseases.
  • The appearance of symptoms of weakness or fatigue should be an alarm to seek medical assistance. Diets must always be under medical supervision and approved by them.

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