V is for Voracious……and also Vegetarian.

A Vegetarian Diet means something different to different people

A vegetarian diet can mean different things to different people. Many people who eat such a diet may not call themselves, or consider themselves to be, a vegetarian. Similarly, Someone who calls themselves a vegetarian may not be considered to be one by others who give themselves the same label. It really isn’t as complex as it might sound at first but certain ethical considerations are often part of a person’s decision to become a ë veggie and so what is on the menu may be more than just a matter of meat versus veg.

Strictly speaking, vegetarianism is not eating meat. But to be absolutely clear, that means not eating anything that might be called an animal in the strictest sense. It’s easy to point at cows and pigs and say I’m not eating those but many people stop there and somehow allow themselves to eat poultry. But to be clear: poultry is meat. Other people might not eat beef, pork, lamb and chicken and turkey but allow themselves fish. Again, strictly speaking, fish is meat. Further, some might rule out all the above yet indulge in seafood such as oysters or prawns. This is a grey area to some since to some these are not animals; but, strictly speaking, they are. A great many will also rule out dairy and milk products, and eggs.

So, to properly eat as a vegetarian really means not eating meat of any kind. But some take this a step further; and this is where the ethical aspect comes in. Essentially, there are three kinds of non-meat eater, there are those who don’t eat meat for health reasons, those who are squeamish or don’t like the taste or have some other aversion, and then there are those who don’t agree with the killing or exploitation of animals; this last group may well treat their diet as a part of a lifestyle which also includes the avoidance of leather products, dairy produce, and even wool.

The reasons for this choice of diet are almost as varied as the people that choose it. But, whatever a person’s reasons, the basic outcome is this: a healthy, high fibre diet with ample vitamins and minerals and low fat. Followed sensibly, a vegetarian diet can make you feel healthier, fitter and you can look a cow in the eye without feeling guilty.

The vegetarian label is not all in one

There are more benefits of a vegetarian diet than just improved health

It is a common assumption that vegetarians are healthier than meat eaters and that is the main benefit of the vegetarian diet. Of course it is possible to be a vegetarian and be unhealthy but it seems that statistics do support the common assumption. There may be many reasons for this and one may well be that the decision to abstain from eating meat is one which results in a greater awareness of what foods you are eating and how balanced your diet must be ñ an awareness that a meat eater may not have indulged themselves in. But a vegetarian diet, planned properly, is rich in dietary fibre, carbohydrates, omega 6 fatty acids, vitamins C and E, carotenoids, magnesium and potassium and contains far lower levels of cholesterol and saturated fats and none of the animal protein of a meat eaterís diet.

Despite the fact that Japanese Sumo wrestlers get fat on vegetarian stew, they are the exception and the vast majority of vegetarians donít. In fact, the high level of dietary fibre in a normal veggieís menu is what reduces the overall number of calories absorbed into the body and, therefore, makes a vegetarian diet a more slimmer one. The high fibre, high antioxident and low saturated fat which is typical of a non-meat diet is also conducive to low blood pressure and a healthy heart: further health benefits from ceasing to eat meat. Additionally, the lower general fat and protein intake of a veggie tends to cause a lower production of carcinogens in the body and, therefore, produces a lower risk of cancer. The higher presence of dietary fibre is also good for your general health and well-being, promoting good digestion and less change of digestive disorders.

Aside from the dietary elements of vegetarianism there are additional benefits which may be overlooked. For those concerned about the well-being of animals there is some reassurance in refusing to eat meat. The general awareness which comes with making such a big change to your diet can affect other areas of your life and often a result is a greater awareness of environmental and health issues, as well as a better understanding of your own body and health. It may be that, statistically, a more healthy body is a major benefit of not eating meat but a better awareness of health and your environment may, in the longer term, be the greater benefit of a vegetarian diet.

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