Nov 12, 2012, 12:15 PM
Dr Hassan Azadeh, our health adviser, a senior lecturer at the University of The Gambia and a senior Physician is this week highlighting the benefit of vegetarian foods as an alternative for a healthy life.
Vegetarianism can be adopted for different reasons. Many object to eating meat out of respect for sentient life. Such ethical motivations have been codified under, along with the concept of animal rights. Other motivations for vegetarianism are health-related, political, environmental, cultural, aesthetic or economic.
There are varieties of the diet as well: an ovo-vegetarian diet includes eggs but not dairy products, a lacto-vegetarian diet includes dairy products but not eggs, and an ovo-lacto vegetarian diet includes both eggs and dairy products.
A vegan, or strict vegetarian, diet excludes all animal products, including eggs, dairy, beeswax and honey. Vegans also avoid animal products such as leather for clothing and goose-fat for shoe polish.
Various packaged or processed foods, including cake, cookies, candies, chocolate, yogurt and marshmallows, often contain unfamiliar animal ingredients, and may be a special concern for vegetarians due to the likelihood of such additions.
Often, products are reviewed by vegetarians for animal-derived ingredients prior to purchase or consumption.Vegetarians vary in their feelings regarding these ingredients, however. For example, while some vegetarians may be unaware of animal-derived rennet’s role in the usual production of cheese and may therefore unknowingly consume the product; other vegetarians may not take issue with its consumption.
Semi-vegetarian diets consist largely of vegetarian foods, but may include fish or poultry, or sometimes other meats, on an infrequent basis. Those with diets containing fish or poultry may define meat only as mammalian flesh and may identify with vegetarianism.
A pescetarian diet has been described as “fish but no other meat”.The common use association between such diets and vegetarianism has led vegetarian groups such as the Vegetarian Society to state that diets containing these ingredients are not vegetarian, due to fish and birds being animals.
The earliest records of (lacto) vegetarianism come from ancient India and ancient Greece in the 5th century BCE. In the Asian instance the diet was closely connected with the idea of nonviolence towards animals (called ahimsa in India) and was promoted by religious groups and philosophers.Among the Hellenes, Egyptians and others, it had medical or Ritual purification purposes
Varieties of vegetarianism
There are a number of types of vegetarianism, which exclude or include various foods.
·Ovo vegetarianism includes eggs but not dairy products.
·Lacto vegetarianism includes dairy products but not eggs.
·Ovo-lacto vegetarianism (or lacto-ovo vegetarianism) includes animal/dairy products such as eggs, milk, and honey.
·Veganism excludes all animal flesh and products, such as milk, honey, and eggs, as well as items refined or manufactured through any such product, such as bone-char refined white sugar or animal-tested baking soda.
·Raw veganism includes only fresh and uncooked fruit, nuts, seeds, and vegetables. Vegetables can only be cooked up to a certain temperature.
·Fruitarian’s permits only fruit, nuts, seeds, and other plant matter that can be gathered without harming the plant.
·Static diet (also known as yogic diet), a plant based diet which may also include dairy (not eggs) and honey, but excludes anything from the onion or leek family, red lentils, durian fruit, mushrooms, blue cheeses, fermented foods or sauces, alcoholic drinks and often also excludes coffee, tea, chocolate, nutmeg or any other type of stimulant such as excess sharp spices.
·Buddhist vegetarianism. Different Buddhist traditions have differing teachings on diet, which may also vary for ordained monks and nuns compared to others. Many interpret the precept ‘not to kill’ to require abstinence from meat, but not all. In Taiwan, su vegetarianism excludes not only all animal products but also vegetables in the alliums family (which have the characteristic aroma of onion and garlic): onion, garlic, scallions, leeks, chives, or shallots.
·Jain vegetarianism includes dairy but excludes eggs and honey, as well as root vegetables.
·Macrobiotic diets consist mostly of whole grains and beans.
Within the ‘ovo-’ groups, there are many who refuse to consume fertilized eggs (with balut being an extreme example); however, such distinction is typically not specifically addressed.
Some vegetarians also avoid products that may use animal ingredients not included in their labels or which use animal products in their manufacturing; for example, sugars that are whitened with bone char, cheeses that use animal rennet (enzymes from animal stomach lining), gelatin (derived from the collagen inside animals’ skin, bones and connective tissue), some cane sugar (but not beet sugar) and apple juice/alcohol clarified with gelatin or crushed shellfish and sturgeon, while other vegetarians are unaware of or do not mind such ingredients.
Individuals may label themselves “vegetarian” while practicing a semi-vegetarian diet, as some dictionary definitions describe vegetarianism as including the consumption of fish, or only include mammalian flesh as part of their definition of meat, while other definitions exclude fish and all animal flesh.In other cases, individuals may describe themselves as “flexitarian”. These diets may be followed by those who reduce animal flesh consumed as a way of transitioning to a complete vegetarian diet or for health, ethical, environmental, or other reasons. Semi-vegetarian diets include:
·pescetarianism, which includes fish and possibly other forms of seafood;
·pollotarianism, which includes chicken and possibly other poultry;
·“pollo-pescetarian”, which includes poultry and fish, or “white meat” only;
·Macrobiotic diets consisting mostly of whole grains and beans, but May sometimes include fish.
Semi-vegetarianism is contested by vegetarian groups, such as the Vegetarian Society, who state that vegetarianism excludes all animal flesh.
Health benefits and concerns
In prospective studies of adults, compared to non-vegetarian eating patterns, vegetarian-style eating patterns have been associated with improved health outcomes—lower levels of obesity, a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, and lower total mortality. Several clinical trials have documented that vegetarian eating patterns lower blood pressure.
On average, vegetarians consume a lower proportion of calories from fat (particularly saturated fatty acids), fewer overall calories, more fiber, potassium, and vitamin C, than do non-vegetarians. Vegetarians generally have a lower body mass index. These characteristics and other lifestyle factors associated with a vegetarian diet may contribute to the positive health outcomes that have been identified among vegetarians.
Protein intake in vegetarian diets is only slightly lower than in meat diets and can meet daily requirements for any person, including athletes and bodybuilders.Vegetarian diets provide sufficient protein intake as long as a variety of plant sources are available and consume.
Vegetarian diets typically contain similar levels of iron to non-vegetarian diets, but this has lower bioavailability than iron from meat sources, and its absorption can sometimes be inhibited by other dietary constituents.
According to the Vegetarian Resource Group, consuming food that contains vitamin C, such as citrus fruit or juices, tomatoes, or broccoli, is a good way to increase the amount of iron absorbed at a meal.Vegetarian foods rich in iron include black beans, cashews, hempseed, kidney beans, broccoli, lentils, oatmeal, raisins, spinach, cabbage, lettuce, black-eyed peas, soybeans, many breakfast, sunflower seeds, chickpeas, tomato juice, temper, molasses, thyme, and whole-wheat bread. The related vegan diets can often be higher in iron than vegetarian diets, because dairy products are low in iron.