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Vegetarianism, pros and cons

What does being vegetarian mean? What are the pros and cons of following a vegetarian diet?

First of all, we should distinguish among the different types of vegetarianism: for example, lacto-ovo-vegetarians are those people who avoid to consume meat and fish but eat milk, dairy products and eggs; vegans, instead, don’t eat any food product of animal origin (meat, fish, milk, dairy products, eggs); raw veganism not only excludes food of animal origin but also cooked food.

 

Lacto-ovo-vegetarianism is the less rigid food practice among those listed above and if it is followed with wisdom, it doesn’t determine severe food deficiencies, even in the long term. This because foods of animal origin such as milk and eggs can provide the right amount of proteins and essential amino acids, which are not included in the plant kingdom.

 

A “smart” vegetarian diet, rich in fruits, legumes, whole cereals and poor in animal tissues can ensure multiple advantages from a strictly nutritious point of view: lower intake of environmental toxins, which are mostly found in meat and animal products because they accumulate during the food chain; lower odds of food intoxication (connected to the excessive consumption of meat); lower odds of cardiovascular diseases (hypertension, heart attack, stroke) linked to the excessive consumption of saturated fats; a larger amount of fibres, which have positive effects on the intestines function and prevent many pathologies (from obesity to tumours); a larger amount of vitamins and useful mineral salts; a larger amount of antioxidant and protective substances.

 

The lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet is more complete because it also includes more vitamins (mineral salts such as calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium; vitamin A, B1, B2, PP and biotin). The fact that it includes also milk and dairy products guarantees a good calcium intake, necessary to prevent osteoporosis; eggs are a good source of easily digestible iron (which is lacking in plant kingdom).

 

However, those who decide to follow this diet should make sure to consume food high in some nutrients including vitamin B12. Foods of animal origin (shellfish, meat, liver…) are rich in this precious vitamin, which is also found in eggs, dairy products and, coontrary to what many old books read, even in food of vegetable origin such as wheatgerm, sunflower seeds, sprouts, parsley and so on.

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