What Kind Of Vegetarian Are You?

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Published: June 3, 2014

Healthy Eating

Have you ever considered becoming a vegetarian? Yes, giving up all meat and choosing nuts, seeds and legumes instead. As preposterous as it may seem to the average meat-loving African, there is a growing number of people, both in Africa and beyond, that are giving up meat to pursue the vegetarian lifestyle.

At Radiant Health, we have received questions about transitioning to vegetarianism and so over the next four weeks we will discuss plant-based diets and provide you with practical tips for a successful transition.

Health Benefits of Vegetarianism

In addition to being supportive of animal rights and having a low carbon foot print, vegetarian diets have numerous documented benefits. From a health standpoint, they are low in saturated fat and cholesterol but high in phytochemicals and fibre. These protective qualities make them the perfect prescription for the prevention and/or treatment of chronic disease. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, vegetarian diets promote:

Lower rates of heart disease
Decreased low-density lipoprotein (bad) cholesterol levels
Lower rates of high blood pressure (hypertension)
Lower rates of type 2 diabetes
Lower body mass index (weight)
Lower overall cancer rates
Longevity

Types of Vegetarian Diets
While most vegetarians generally avoid red meat, there are varying degrees of the lifestyle. It is common to find vegetarians that enjoy fish, eggs and/or dairy on a regular basis. In fact, the classifications of vegetarianism are so wide that even people who occasionally eat meat can be included. If you are seriously considering becoming vegetarian, you must first pick the classification that fits into your lifestyle.

Vegan. Avoids all animal flesh (beef, pork, goat, lamb, chicken, fish, seafood, insects, etc.) and animal products such as eggs, honey, milk and dairy products. Extremely strict vegans avoid the usage of all animal products such as fur, leather and wool in their daily lives.

Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian/ Semi-Vegetarian. Most likely the most common form of vegetarianism. From the Latin root “Lacto” and “Ovo” meaning milk and egg, Lacto-ovo vegetarians avoid all forms of animal flesh (beef, pork, goat, lamb, poultry, fish, seafood, insects, etc.) but include milk, dairy and eggs. Due to food allergies and intolerances, some in this classification avoid either dairy or eggs. Consequently they are known as Lacto-vegetarians (include milk and dairy but not eggs) or Ovo-Vegetarians (include eggs but not milk and dairy).

Pescatarian. Includes fish but avoids all other animal flesh (beef, pork, goat, lamb, poultry, insects, etc.). May or may not include milk, dairy and eggs.

Flexitarian/Semi Vegetarian. Enjoys a plant based diet but will occasionally have a serving of meat such as chicken, beef, goat etc. Most Flexitarians include eggs, milk and dairy.

Picking the Vegetarian Diet that Works for you:

1. Decide your reasons for going vegetarian. Do you want better health? Do you care about animals living in extremely inhumane conditions? Is decreasing your carbon footprint important to you? Your reasons for making the switch will predict your ability to stick with it. The stronger your driving force, the better the outcome.

2. Pick a classification that supports your tolerances and preferences. You cannot be a Lacto-Ovo vegetarian if you suffer abdominal discomfort when you drink milk (Lactose Intolerant). Similarly, you are less likely to succeed at being a Pescatarian if fish is expensive and/or unavailable where you live.

3. Enjoy the transition.

The wonderful thing about becoming vegetarian is that the lifestyle is not static. If you find one classification too rigid and restrictive, pick one that is more flexible. The key to success lies in finding a plan that works for you. Not ready to fully commit? Consider joining the “Meatless Monday” campaign and start by giving up meat once a week. Before long, you may find yourself following a highly plant powered diet.

Here’s to your health!

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About Cordialis Msora-Kasago

Cordialis Msora-Kasago is a Registered Dietitian (R.D) and a pioneer in the discussion of modern day healthy lifestyles in Africa. She is the founder of The African Pot Nutrition - an organization that improves the health of African people through sustainable diet and lifestyle programs. Follow her on twitter @africadietitian.

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