A Guide to a Healthy Vegetarian and Vegan Diet & Lifestyle

Vegetarian or Vegan?

When people think of vegetable based diets they mostly imagine health nuts and hippies eating granola, nuts, and vegetables, but there’s more to it. Most vegetarians eat and use some products that come from animals but generally those which do not involve harm to an animal.

By contrast, a vegan consumes and uses, ONLY things that come from vegetation, and nothing involving animals in any way. Though there are many different reasons people choose to pursue vegetable based diets, there are consistent concerns and benefits of vegetable based diets.

What is Vegetarian Cuisine?

Most vegetarians consume eggs and dairy products, which makes it far easier to stay healthy as a vegetarian as dairy is pretty helpful to the human diet. The gamut of vegetarian cuisine available in places that offer vegetarian items on their menu adheres to that principle, which can make it very difficult for Vegans to find a place to eat.

A vegan recipe should include no meat, and in general no products that cause harm to animals. Many vegetarians also avoid commercial foods, favoring organic and free range alternatives, even if an animal is not killed to produce milk or eggs, on the basis that commercialized systems allow very little free movement of the animals involved.

Health Benefits, and Risks

Meat can be dangerous even in the United States where there are many agencies regulating the food supply; bacteria often can pass through to meat. In much of the rest of the world many opt to purchase meat in open markets where it can be old, or contain diseases since it is not inspected. For this reason Vegans and Vegetarians can be healthier because they are not exposed to the bacteria and disease that many are.

The health benefits of Vegetarianism or Veganism are offset by an imbalance of nutrients.  Vegetarians must be more conscientious in locating nutrients that are most easily found in meat and dairy, such as the B vitamin group. Strictly speaking the easiest way to get protein is through meat, and also dairy products are a good part of a balanced diet. Vegans can eat dairy and cheese, so they are able to keep up with normal dairy requirements. Vegans have a difficult time with this, often requiring multivitamin supplements to account for the lost dairy. Both, however can eat foods like tofu, chickpeas, and soy, all of which can help make up for the loss of protein.

Nutrition & Vegetable Based Diets and Special Concerns like Pregnancy

When healthy, and when one keeps up with nutritional demands of the body, these diets are generally very good and most people are very healthy and avoid cancers and heart illness that are so prevalent in the rest of society. Generally speaking, vegetarians are slimmer and healthier than their meat eating counterparts.

There are times when vegetarians may opt of a very strict vegetarian diet, or may have to make adjustments. When one is ill or pregnant it can be very difficult to maintain a strict vegan or vegetarian diet. Much of this can be addressed by eating seafood, but all vegans, and many vegetarians have philosophical reasons for not doing so. That said, for a pregnant or breast feeding mother, it is important to consider that a growing fetus, or a newborn child, has dietary necessities which may be more important than their philosophical concerns. Again, the nutrition can be supplied to both mother and child through an increased effort to find these nutrients in other foods or through vitamins.

Many of those on vegetable based diets will also make exceptions during times of illness when the body can much more easily accommodate meats for nutrients as opposed to supplements that are digested differently.

Religions & Vegetable Based Diets

A variety of religions practice partial or total vegetable based diets. In Orthodox Christianity during times of fasting the required diet is very similar to the Vegan diet. During this time nothing that originates from animals, with the exception of invertebrate seafood, may be consumed, and even foods containing olive oil cannot be consumed. In Arabic religions, like Islam, fasting is also very similar. Many far east philosophies similarly refuse either for part or all of the year to consume anything but vegetable based foods.

Notable Vegetarians & Vegans

There are many famous vegetarians. Though sometimes stars exaggerate their dedication to veganism here some of the most famous who have said they are participants:

  • Steve Jobs (Vegetarian) – CEO & founder of Apple computer, and also the largest shareholder of Disney. In college he was well known for, not showering, and following a diet of only fruits.
  • Paula Abdul (Vegetarian) – Famous performer, and long time judge on American Idol.
  • Kirsten Bell – The Voice of Gossip Girl, and established TV and movie actress.
  • Victoria Beckham (Vegan) – Former Spice Girl, and well known wife of David Beckham, the professional futbol (soccer) player.
  • Steven Patrick Morrisey (Vegan) – (Better known simply as Morrisey) The lead singer of the Smiths, and also accomplished singer/songwriter himself.
  • Woody Harrelson (Vegan) – Known both for his action roles, and also as Woody from TV’s ‘Cheers’.
  • Ellen DeGeneres (Vegan) – An established comedian, actor, talk show host, and civil rights advocate.
  • Paul McCartney (Vegetarian) – Being one of the Beatles, and arguably co-member of the greatest songwriting duos of all time he probably needs little introduction.
  • Tea Leoni (Vegan) – Famous American actress.

Organizations, and Publications

There are many resources for aspiring, or ongoing vegetarians and vegans. Here are some organizations, and publications that practice and promote vegetable based diets.

 

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