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According to research, there is a growing body of scientific evidence that indicates wholesome vegetarian diets offer distinct advantages compared to diets containing meat and other foods of animal origin.
The benefits arise from lower intakes of saturated fat, cholesterol and animal protein as well as higher intakes of complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, magnesium, folic acid, vitamin C and E, carotenoids and other phytochemicals.
Before starting anything new, read as much as possible about vegetarianism. Check out a couple of good books from the library (or better yet, borrow from vegetarian friends). It’s important to also be clear about the reasons for such a dietary adjustment. And always, check with your doctor about any major dietary switch, especially if you are immune compromised.
Once you decide to make a gradual transition into vegetarianism, although you can also do it all at once, start with red meat, then seafood, dairy, etc. But be certain to have alternative meal recipes on-the-ready so you can transition smoothly. Again, check out cookbooks, vegetarian groups for support and inspiration.
Types of Vegetarians
Clearly, vegetarians are people who don’t eat meat, poultry, or seafood. But there are several sub-types of vegetarians, including the following:
- Vegans (total vegetarians): Do not eat meat, poultry, fish, or any products from animals, including eggs, dairy products, and gelatin.
- Lacto-ovo vegetarians: Do not eat meat, poultry, or fish, but do eat eggs and dairy products.
- Lacto vegetarians: Eat no meat, poultry, fish, or eggs, but do eat dairy products.
- Ovo vegetarians: Eat no meat, poultry, fish, or dairy products, but do eat eggs.
- Partial vegetarians: Avoid meat but may eat fish (pesco-vegetarian, pescatarian) or poultry (pollo-vegetarian).
And for the record, here is a quick fact sheet for easy vegetarian eating.
Content for this article provided in part by the Department of Health and Human Services, Harvard Health Newsletter, and the Mayo Clinic.