In general terms, vegetarians are the people who exclude meat, poultry, fish or other animal derived food from their diets. There are different types of vegetarians such as lacto-ovo vegetarian, lacto vegetarian and strict vegetarians.
Lacto-ovo – vegetarian diet
Lacto-ovo vegetarians include milk, milk products and eggs, but exclude meat, poultry and sea food from their diets. Lacto vegetarians include milk and its products but exclude meat, poultry and sea food from their diets. Strict vegetarians include only grains, vegetables and fruits in their diets.
Normally, vegetarian diets are included a variety of whole grains, vegetables, legumes and fruits which offer abundant complex of carbohydrate and fibers, an assortment of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and little fat. Therefore, their diet helps them in prevention and treatment of many diseases such as blood pressure, coronary artery diseases and most notably the colon cancers. But there are some limitations as well.
Therefore, the most important thing in a vegetarian diet is proper planning, if not their diet may lack certain important nutrients such as protein, iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin B12 and vitamin D since animal based foods are the richest source of these nutrients.
How to plan your diet to overcome these limitations.
* Lacto-ovo-vegetarians can easily obtain adequate amount of protein since milk and eggs are good sources of high quality protein.
* Include variety of protein rich foods in your diet Eg: grains, legumes, seeds, nuts and vegetables (eg: soya beans, beans)
Lacto vegetarian diet
* Always select a variety of whole food rather than using meat replacements made of textured vegetable protein (soy protein) which are formulated to look and taste like meat, fish or poultry.
*The iron in plant foods is poorly absorbed.
Eg: legumes, dark green leafy vegetables (gotukola and spinach), iron fortified cereal and whole grain bread and cereals
*Incorporate Vitamin C rich fruits and vegetables together with these foods to enhance iron absorption. Eg: Guava, orange juice, papaya, lime juice
*Zinc is also not well absorbed from plant food sources.
*Soy, which is commonly used as a meat alternate in vegetarian meals may reduce the zinc absorption.
* Eat a variety of nutrient dense food including whole grain nuts, legumes and maintain an adequate energy intake.
* Calcium intake of lacto-ovo-vegetarians is similar to non-vegetarians.
* Other vegans have to include more calcium rich food sources in their diet. Eg: Okra, soya bean, cabbage, drumstick leaves, curry leaves, fruits like woodapple, cashew nuts and sesame seeds.
* Calcium is a vital nutrient for children and adolescents especially for their bone development.
Strict vegetarian diet
* Although the requirement is small, it is found only in animal derived foods. Therefore, it is not a problem for lacto-ovo-vegetarian since eggs and milk products are good source of vitamin B12.
* Strict vegans must rely on vitamin B12 fortified food sources such as cereal and soy milk to defend against vitamin B12 deficiency.
* Enough exposure to sunlight can eliminate vitamin D deficiency among vegans. * Older adults who do not have enough exposure to sunlight can use vitamin D fortified milk.
If one plan their diet properly by consuming wider varieties of foods in adequate amount, one can fulfill their daily nutrient requirement. With proper planning of diet if one can follow other healthy habits: no smoking, if at all regular physical activities, adequate rest and get medical attention when needed this all will contribute for a long healthy life.
Dilki Supeshla Perera Department of Applied Nutrition Faculty of Livestock Fisheries and Nutrition Wayamba University of Sri Lanka - Courtesy by Daily News