Even though there are many different types of vegetarians, from those that avoid meat but consume fish to those that do not consume any meat or seafood but do enjoy dairy products or eggs, a true vegetarian is an individual who follows a strictly plant-based diet. More often referred to as a vegan, a true vegetarian does not consume any foods that came from animal. These include eggs, milk and cheese products, honey, and all different types of meat, from seafood and poultry to beef and everything in between. Many vegetarians like to say that if a food came from a creature with a face, they will not eat it.
There are myriad reasons why one would choose to follow a plant-based diet. For example, they may have learned about the inhumane and extremely cruel practices employed throughout the meat and dairy industries, as well as the abuse that the oceans and species that live within them endure as a result of overfishing. Others may find that, when they consume more plant-based meals, they feel better overall, with more energy and a clearer mind. And still others may choose to go vegetarian in order to resolve an existing health condition, such as diabetes or heart disease, or simply because they hope to lose weight and get in better shape. But changing over to a plant-based diet takes practice, time, and dedication.
Why Do Vegetarians Lose Weight So Easily?
According to studies like this one, people who choose to go on a vegetarian diet lose more weight than those who do not. And they are also able to keep the weight off for longer. And you may have also noticed some celebrities opting for a vegetarian diet to get in shape more quickly and keep the pounds off. The key to healthy weight loss, however, lies in following a diet that is filled with healthy whole foods packed with vital nutrients, protein, and fiber. Avoiding foods that are high in sugar and fat will help you slim down and improve your health. And it is important to bear in mind, too, that there are plenty of processed vegetarian junk foods out there. Just because a product does not contain any animal-based ingredients does not mean that it is necessarily good for you. Therefore, if you plan on going on a vegetarian diet to improve your overall health, make sure you do it correctly to avoid causing more harm than good.
A properly balanced vegetarian diet will provide your body with all of the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants it needs to maintain a strong immune system and keep the various organ systems of the body healthy as well. And because vegetarian foods are very low in saturated fat and cholesterol, which can lead to weight gain and myriad health disorders, it will be easier to shed excess weight more quickly.
In place of saturated fats, you will instead be getting heart-healthy and brain-boosting omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. You will also be consuming fewer calories by eating fresh whole foods that fill you up with complex carbohydrates and fiber that keep you fill yet maintain your energy level throughout the day. Ultimately, this means you will eat less yet feel great, and your body will be able to burn through all of the excess fat in your body, which also stores up toxins, thereby releasing waste products more efficiently and helping you feel more vibrant.
Keep in mind that switching back to your regular omnivorous diet after following a vegetarian diet for some time may result in you gaining the weight back quite quickly. After not consuming animal-based products for a long time, you may also have difficultly readjusting to the consumption and digestion of these foods. Many people who go on vegetarian diets to lose weight, therefore, choose to continue maintaining those eating habits for the majority of their diet while incorporating just some of their old favorites back into their life.
But, How Do Vegetarians Get Enough Protein for Muscles?
There is a big misconception that many people fall for, and it basically states that protein is only available from foods that come from animals. The truth, however, is that it is very difficult to become deficient in protein, especially in developed countries, and protein is found in some amount in just about every food you consume. By eating a diet that is rich in whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, fruits, and vegetables, you will be able to get all of the amino acids that your body needs to produce the protein that will keep you strong and help you build and maintain muscle. In fact, there are many incredibly strong vegan athletes and bodybuilders that prove they can get enough protein from a plant-based diet.
Keep in mind, too, that diets high in animal protein and saturated fat are linked to a variety of diseases, including cardiovascular disorders and cancers. These proteins are also typically harder for the body to digest, whereas a good dose of raw protein from plants will give you the fuel your body needs without having to work as hard.
For tips on how to get the right balance of nutrients through the very best foods on a vegetarian diet, read this Vegan Food Pyramid blog post.
What Other Benefits Can Be Derived from a Vegetarian Diet?
In addition to weight loss, there are plenty of other great reasons to go on a vegetarian diet. Another health benefit that people have noticed after making the switch is a lowered risk of hypertension, high cholesterol, and other cardiovascular issues, thanks to the fact that plants do not contain cholesterol and vegan foods are low in saturated fat.
A lowered risk of acquiring type 2 diabetes, along with a reduced risk of renal disease, gallstones, and diverticulosis are also benefits of a vegetarian diet. And the risk of getting certain cancers, such as lung, breast, and colon cancer, is also reduced when you eliminate animal proteins and swap them out for plant-based options that are richer in nutrients, antioxidants, and fiber that help clear wastes out of the body and keep the immune system strong.
Eliminating tobacco use and limiting alcohol consumption, as well as pursuing a lifestyle that gets you physically active for several days each week, will also reduce your risk of a variety of disorders and make a vegetarian diet even more effective.
Is a Vegetarian Diet a Good Option for People of All Ages?
When done right, a vegetarian diet will not lead to deficiencies. Like any other diet, you may need to take some supplements, such as vitamin B12 and vitamin D, to ensure you have adequate levels of these vital nutrients in your blood. But before taking any supplements, it is best to speak with your doctor. He or she can examine you and run a blood test that will determine whether or not you need to fix any deficiencies or boost any nutrients that may be on the lower end of the healthy range.
People of all ages, from young children to the elderly, can benefit from a vegetarian diet that is filled with an array of whole foods that promote vitality and provide you with all of the delicious flavors that you crave. From breakfast and lunch to dinner and dessert, there are many, many recipes to choose from, as well as meals from various cultures throughout the world that are great for your body. For example, you can have fun in your kitchen and incorporate new flavors and healthy spices by learning and cooking amazing vegetarian Indian meals. If you wish to convert your children to a vegetarian diet, make sure you do so correctly and safely.
Are You Ready to Make the Switch?
If you are ready to give a plant-based vegetarian diet a try for any reason, be patient with yourself. As you shift away from eating unhealthy foods, your palate will, indeed, change. Your cravings will change and you will no longer reach for unhealthy, fatty, salty, and sugary foods because you will be more inclined to enjoy fresher, more wholesome, and nutritious foods.
A good way to start on this track is by setting aside about three weeks, or 21 days, during which you will follow a vegetarian diet and monitor how you feel and how much you weigh. Doing plenty of research ahead of time, by taking a course like this one that introduces a step-by-step plan to a healthy vegetarian lifestyle, while also looking into recipes and meat substitutes available at your local grocery stores, will allow you to dive right into your 21-day challenge and actually enjoy it without any hiccups along the way. Once you get through this initial period, you should notice that you have developed some very healthy habits that will allow you to continue eating this way long into the future.