You could be a strict vegetarian because or religious, cultural, or ethical reasons. Perhaps you are a vegetarian because you want to stay healthy and keep diet-related health complications at bay. Regardless of your reasons to be a vegetarian, you definitely need to ensure you are on the right path, and this article seeks to enlighten you on the different types of vegetarian diets available today, so you can be able to make an informed decision and more importantly be able to ensure you are not negating your daily dietary needs.
Types of vegetarian diets
When a vegetarian diet is mentioned, the first thing that comes to people’s mind is a diet that has nothing to do with fish, poultry, and/or meat. As you will realize, a vegetarian diet can be classified into three major categories, hence yours could fall on any of the categories.
- The first type of a vegetarian diet is the one that excludes poultry, meat, eggs, fish, and all dairy products and any foods that has any of the mentioned food products. Basically, the diet is made up of vegetables.
- The second type of a vegetarian diet is the one that excludes poultry, fish, meat, eggs, and any foods containing these products. However, dairy products like cheese, milk, butter, and yogurt are permitted. This second category of vegetarian diet is known as a lacto-vegetarian diet.
- Third in line is the lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, a diet that prohibits the use of fish, meat, and poultry but permits dairy products and eggs.
- Further down the line you will find a diet known as a semi-vegetarian type of diet, otherwise referred to as a flexitarian diet because of the simple reason that it is basically a plant-based diet although it allows dairy products, meat, fish, eggs, and poultry in small quantities and on occasions.
With that being said, you should know about a vegetarian diet pyramid, which is basically a food chart or pyramid if you like that will delineate food choices and different food groups, and goes further ahead to outline that if the foods are taken in the right amounts, they have the potential of forming the basis of an acceptable healthy vegetarian diet. As is with any other type of diet today, the key to a good vegetarian diet is to be able to enjoy all the food choices in it.
Be advised that there is no single type of food today that will give you all the nutrients that your body requires. As such, the more limiting a diet is, the more it will be challenging and hard for you to derive all the nutrients that your body requires. For instance, a vegan diet restricts food sources rich in vitamins B-12, and all milk products, products which are known to be potent sources of the much needed calcium for healthy bones and teeth. Thus, it is your responsibility to ensure you make the necessary arrangements that by the end of the day, regardless of the vegetarian diet that you take, your body will receive the following essential body nutrients.
- First in line is calcium which as mentioned is responsible for strong bones and teeth. You derive calcium from low-fat dairy products, dark green veggies like collard greens, turnip, broccoli, and kales. Your other alternative would be to take calcium-enriched products such as cereals, juices, soy yogurt, soy milk, and tofu to mention but a few.
- The second essential nutrient is iodine, a very important ingredient that helps regulate the body’s metabolism and is responsible for the growth and normal functioning of major body organs such as the thyroid, kidney, brain, and the heart. Be advised that most vegetarians don’t take enough iodine no wonder they are always vulnerable to iodine deficiency which could lead to goiter.
- Iron is equally a very important component of the human red blood cells. You derive iron from enriched cereals, dried peas and beans, lentils, whole-grain foodstuffs, dirt fruits, and dark leafy green veggies. Be advised though that iron is not always readily absorbed in the body from plant sources, hence you might want to double your intake of iron if you are a vegetarian. To be able to help your body in the absorption of iron, you might want to eat foods rich in vitamin C; tomatoes, vitamin C, strawberries, broccoli, cabbage, etc are all recommended.
- Other essential body nutrients your body needs include proteins, omega 3-fatty acids, vitamin B-12, vitamins D, and zinc, with sources of zinc being legumes, soy products, whole grains, wheat germ, nuts, cheese etc. The health of your bones is also determined by Vitamin D, which you derive from margarines, and some selected cereals. When you couple these with daily physical fitness activities such as walking, jogging, swimming, and cycling, you can rest assured you will be the healthiest vegetarian in the world.