A survey done by the Latin American Society of Nutrition in 2007 revealed that many people wanted to become vegetarians, but they just simply couldn't bring themselves to do it. In societies where there are true worshipers of the grill and barbecue, publicly announcing your decision to never eat a piece of meat again is not easy.
The same occurs in the United States, even though the vegetarian movement is older and more well established. The American Dietetic Association and the Canadian Dental Association believe that well planned vegetarian diets are healthy, nutritionally adequate, and provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.
A vegetarian diet is defined as one that excludes meat, fish, and poultry. Approximately 2.5% of U.S. adults are vegetarians (around 4.8 million people) and interest in this alternate way of eating seems to be on the rise.
In fact, vegetarian menu options already exist on airlines and in restaurants, and are even being incorporated into college cafeterias and many company dining rooms. Also, supermarkets are selling more attractive foods for vegetarians.
Vegetarian activists offer you some arguments that may be useful when it comes to justifying your decision or at least your desire to try it out. Vegetarian diets offer numerous nutritional benefits such as lower levels of saturated fats, cholesterol, and animal proteins as well as higher levels of carbohydrates, fiber, magnesium, potassium, and antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and phytochemicals.
According to data from the American Dietetic Association, studies on vegetarians show that they have lower Body Mass Index (BMI) values as well as lower mortality rates from strokes. They also show lower levels of blood cholesterol, blood pressure, and lower rates for high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer.
However, experts emphasize that these are prevented if one follows a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrients. They say that the same goes for conventional diets which should be composed of a variety of products.
Vegetarian diets can vary considerably. The diets of lacto-ova vegetarians are based on the intake of cereals, vegetables, fruits, legumes, seeds, nuts, dairy products, and eggs; and exclude meats, fish, and poultry. Lacto-vegetarians exclude eggs as well as meats, fish, and poultry.
People who follow a macrobiotic diet usually identify themselves as vegetarians. A macrobiotic diet is mainly based on the intake of cereals, legumes, and vegetables. Fruits, nuts, and seeds are consumed in smaller amounts. Some people who follow a macrobiotic diet aren't really vegetarians because they consume small amounts of fish.
Among reasons for choosing a vegetarian diet are health and environmental concerns or factors related to the well-being of animals. Vegetarians also state economic reasons and ethical considerations, for example, world hunger.
A study done on the profile of vegetarians determined that women who live in large coastal cities on the East and West coasts of the country are a large percentage.
The U.S. National Restaurant Association reflected the growing popularity of this trend when it recently reported that 8 out of every 10 restaurants in the country offer a variety of vegetarian dishes.
Interest was also sparked in the academic world; less than 10 publications a year in the 1960s grew to an average of 76 a year in the 1990s. What's even more interesting is that the approach changed. Before, the articles questioned the nutritional sufficiency of vegetarian diets. Today, the topic is the use of vegetarian diets to prevent and treat certain diseases. In fact, the American Institute for Cancer Research emphasized the need for diets focused on a wide variety of vegetables, fruits and legumes; and less on red meats and foods based on processed starches. In agreement are the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association.
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