Vegetarian Diet — What You Need to Know — US News Best Diets

Posted: August 23, 2015 at 6:47 pm


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Overview The aim:

Depends, but may include weight loss, heart health, and diabetes prevention or control.

Balanced Diet: These diets fall within accepted ranges for the amount of protein, carbs, fat and other nutrients they provide. Learn More

Going vegetarian could help shed pounds and fend off chronic diseases.

You can cook up a perfectly healthy, meat-free menu that supports weight loss and reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Well, which kind of vegetarian do you want to be? Most choose a lacto-ovo approach, turning their backs on meat, fish, and poultry but still eating dairy products and eggs. (Lacto-vegetarians, meanwhile, also nix eggs, whereas ovo-vegetarians also nix dairy; vegans exclude all animal products.) For the lacto-ovo camp, the governments 2010 Dietary Guidelines can help you develop a healthy plan. You can skip over the first 80 pages and just figure out how many meatless calories you should eat (Appendix 6, page 78) and where they ought to come from (Appendix 8, page 81) to get all the nutrients you need.

A daily 2,000-calorie diet, for example, should include 2 cups of fruit; 2 cups of vegetables; 3 cups of dairy, 6 ounce-equivalents of grains, and 5 ounce-equivalents of protein. The fine print will tell you how much actual food is in an ounce-equivalent. For grains, one ounce-equivalent is a slice of bread or a 6-inch tortilla; for protein, its an egg or quarter-cup of cooked beans. As with any diet, boredom is avoided through variationlike incorporating different-colored veggies and sources of protein to get the nutrients you need.

If that sounds tedious, countless books offer structure with vegetarian meal plans and recipes. The Internet is also full of good information. On its website, Oldways, a nonprofit food think tank, simplifies with its vegetarian food pyramid, which it codeveloped with the Harvard School of Public Health. The Mayo Clinic also offers tips to get started.

You dont have to go cold turkey. You could start by preparing a couple meat-free dishes each week, and gradually make more substitutionstofu in stir fry instead of chicken, say, or grilled veggie burgers instead of beef. If your aim is also weight loss, amp up your exercise routine and eat fewer calories than your daily recommended max.

Do: Try tofu.

Fill your menu with lots of vegetables and plant-derived protein sources, like tofu.

Likely. Research shows vegetarians tend to eat fewer calories, weigh less, and have a lower body mass index (a measure of body fat) than their meat-eating counterparts. If youre doing it righteating lots of fruits, veggies, and whole grainsyoull likely feel full on fewer calories than youre allowed each day. With that calorie deficit and a little physical activity, youre bound to shed pounds. How quickly and whether you keep them off is up to you.

Yes, provided you create a healthy plan (a French fries and doughnut diet counts as vegetarian). Research has linked vegetarian diets to reducing cholesterol, blood pressure, and the risk of heart disease. As long as youre not devouring copious calories and youre monitoring your saturated fat intake, youll tilt the heart-disease odds in your favor.

Even better, the vegetarian diet is linked to longevity: In a six year study of more than 73,000 people published in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers found that vegetarians including those following vegan, lacto-ovo-, pesco- and semi-vegetarian diets were 12 percent less likely to die than nonvegetarians.

Yes, its a good option for both.

Prevention: Being overweight is one of the biggest risk factors for type 2 diabetes. If going meat-free helps you lose weight and keep it off, youll stand a better chance of staving off the disease. Some research has linked vegetarianism with a lower diabetes risk.

Control: Its a healthful option, according to the American Diabetes Association. And because there are no rigid meal plans or prepackaged meals, you can ensure that what youre eating doesnt go against your doctors advice.

Unlikely, as long as you create a sensible plan.

Youll almost certainly jack up your risk of heart disease and diabetes (and wont do your waistline any good) if your meals revolve around white bread, cheese, and sugary, fatty desserts. If youre worried about malnutrition, your doctor can help design your meals.

One large study in the journal PLoS One linked vegetarianism with higher incidences of cancer, allergies and mental health disorders, as well as a higher need for health care and poorer quality of life. However, the study, which was conducted in Austria, wasnt causal and may not be generalizable to the United States. Its also probably not conclusive enough to trump other findings, like a 2012 review concluding that a well-planned vegetarian diet has no adverse effects on health.

Otherwise, vegetarianism is generally safe for everyone. Children, teens, and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding can safely go meat-free. (Besides, research has linked excessive red meat consumption with cancer and heart disease.)

Fat. If you make healthful choices, you should stay within the governments recommendation that between 20 to 35 percent of daily calories come from fat.

Protein. It should keep you within the acceptable range for protein consumption.

Carbohydrates. Its in line with the recommendation that carbs supply 45 to 65 percent of daily calories.

Salt. The majority of Americans eat too much salt. The recommended daily maximum is 2,300 milligrams, but if youre 51 or older, African-American, or have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease, that limit is 1,500 mg. Its up to you to stay under your cap, but it shouldnt be too hard if you eat enough fresh produce, ditch heavily processed foods, and hide the salt shaker.

Other key nutrients. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines call these nutrients of concern because many Americans get too little of one or more of them:

Supplement recommended? N/A

How much do you like meat? If the thought of a turkey-free Thanksgiving isnt a turn off, making the switch probably wont be too hard. Plus youre free to decide what you cant live without (omelets? ice cream?) and whether youll cheat on occasion. Be mindful that healthy vegetarianism requires planning, especially if youre a first-time convert.

When you want to cook, theres a recipe somewhere thatll suit your taste buds. When you dont, virtually every restaurant serves up vegetarian fare. And while alcohol is technically permitted, thats not license to binge drink.

Recipes. Limitless. Magazines, books, and websites like this one abound, offering suggestions for every meal and cuisine.

Eating out. Easy. Restaurants typically have lots of vegetarian-friendly entres. Careful, though: Vegetarian doesnt always mean healthy and restaurants are known for their gargantuan portions.

Alcohol. Vegetarian-friendly, but too much can thwart weight loss and damage the liver, brain, and heart. Moderation is your best betthats one drink a day for women, two a day for men. (A drink is considered 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1 ounces of liquor.)

Timesavers. None, unless you hire somebody to plan your meals, shop for them, and prepare them.

Extras. N/A

Nutrition experts emphasize the importance of satiety, the satisfied feeling that youve had enough. If youve built a healthful vegetarian diet around fiber-packed veggies, fruits, and whole grains, you shouldnt feel hungry between meals.

Youre making everything, so if something doesnt taste good, you know who to blame.

Its moderately pricey. Stocking up on produce and whole grains can get expensive, but bypassing the butcher will help keep the tab reasonable. Plus, lacto-ovo vegetarian staples like eggs and beans are some of the most affordable choices at the supermarket.

Vegetarian diets can be easily adaptedchoose your preference for more information.

You can easily follow egg- or dairy-free approaches.

And with a few more restrictions (i.e., shunning all animal products), you can become veganread about veganism here.

Yes, just make sure your choices are certified gluten-free.

Doable, as long as you stay away from buying too many processed foods. Eating lots of fruits and veggies generally keeps the sodium count low.

Yes, you have the freedom to use only kosher ingredients.

Yes, but its up to you to ensure your food conforms.

Vegetarianism only has rules on animal products, but that doesnt mean you shouldnt exercise.

No matter the diet, the more you move, the quicker youll see the pounds come offand youll reduce your risk of developing diabetes, heart problems, and other chronic diseases. Adults are generally encouraged to get at least 2 hours of moderate-intensity activity (like brisk walking) each week, along with a couple days of muscle-strengthening activities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers tips to get you started.

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Vegetarian Diet -- What You Need to Know -- US News Best Diets

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Written by simmons |

August 23rd, 2015 at 6:47 pm

Posted in Vegetarian