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Vegetarian and Vegan Eating

Jaya Mohan

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Optimum Vegetarianism and Veganism
It’s very easy in this day to become an unhealthy vegetarian or vegan. Vegetarians who rely on cheese as their major source of protein can become stuck in a rut; by eating sandwiches, pizzas, pasta and cheese-based convenience foods, they will probably start to show signs of poor eating.

If you end up eating a stodgy, starchy carbohydrate and cheese based diet then be warned, weight gain may be just around the corner. Being a healthy vegetarian or vegan means being knowledgeable about protein combining and having a diet full of freshly prepared or home cooked food. Even vegetarians and vegans have to make sure they are eating adequate daily levels of fresh fruits.

The Benefits of Vegetarian and Vegan Diets
The benefits of following a healthy balanced vegetarian or vegan diet are endless.

Healthy Bowels: vegetarian and vegan diets are generally much higher in both soluble and insoluble fibre,which are fundamentally important for a healthy digestive tract. Trillions of friendly bacteria colonize the small and large intestine,and these beneficial micro-organisms flourish on a high fibre diet. As the bacteria grow they produce nourishment for the cells of the intestinal lining. They also aid with the detoxification of hormones, toxins and cholesterol, and most importantly of all they help to protect the bowel lining from bowel cancer.

Happy Hearts: There is no doubt that vegetarian and vegan diets contain less saturated fat and cholesterol than a diet that includes meat. High levels of fat and cholesterol can increase the risk of furred-up arteries and thick,sticky blood,both of which contribute to heart disease. As vegetarian and vegan diets are also high in fibre(which helps to reduce cholestrol), high in antioxidants(which strengthen artery walls) and high in vitamin E(which prevents blood fats from becoming too sticky and thick), they generally provide increased protection against cardiovascular disease.

Acid-Alkaline Balance: The human body is very sensitive and many of the everyday biochemical processes occur more efficiently if the body is in an alkaline state. The food we choose to eat has a profound effect on what’s known as the acid-alkaline balance. Animal and dairy products along with caffeine, alcohol, sugar and nicotine can have an acidifying effect on body fluids and tissue. Nature has, of course, cleverly balanced this out making plant-based foods, as opposed to animal-sourced foods, have an alkaline effect.

It is often observed that some opportunistic degenerative diseases can start to take root when the body becomes too acidic for extended periods. Vegetarians,and in particular vegans, are more likely to have a better acid-alkaline balance and increased protection against degenerative diseases than meat eaters.

Strong Immunity-Think Colour: Its not just the acid-alkaline balance that enhances your protection against illness. The increasedlevels of fresh fruits and vegetables in vegetarian and vegan diets bring in a rich supply of antioxidants and phytonutrients, and these plant chemicals have a good reputation for boosting body immunity. Orange and red fruits and vegetables are rich in lycopene, whilst green leafy vegetables are rich in vitamin-C and beta-carotene. Purple,blue and red fruits and berries are rich in pro-anthocyanadins and bioflavanols;nuts and seeds are rich in vitamin-E,zinc and selenium.

Complications of Vegetarian and Vegan Diets
Low on Oil: Vegetarians and vegans are at risk of having a low intake of essential fatty acids. Omega-3 oils found in oily fish are vital for a healthy brain and nervous system function and are also required during pregnancy and throughout breastfeeding. They are needed for cardiovascular hormone protection, hormone production and promoting healthy hair, skin and nails.

The main vegetarian and vegan source of omega-3 essential fatty acids are flax oil and blue-green algae, so to prevent an omega-3 fatty acid deficiency it is important that both vegetarians and vegans include flax oil in their daily diet-preferably oil that has not been subjected to heat or light.Flax oil is ideal drizzled over brown rice,baked potatoes or incorporated into a salad dressing.

Poor Protein Power: Unless careful attention is paid to protein combining in daily meal planning and cooking for both vegetarian and vegan diets, it is very easy to become protein deficient. Protein is an important component of bones, muscles, connective tissue, organs, hair, skin and nails. Proteins are also utilized to generate enzymes, hormones, immune cells and chemical messengers that influence biochemical reactions and body processes. Protein deficiency can be expressed in many different forms including weak muscles, poor bone strength, poor hair, skin and nail condition, frequent infections and poor immunity.

A Word About Dairy: As a vegetarian it is very easy to develop an overreliance on dairy produce such as cheese and yoghurt as your main source of protein. However,variety in the diet is of paramount importance.Remember to get your protein from all food groups,whilst rotating your dairy intake.You can choose from cow’s,sheep’s or goat’s milk products or perhaps soya instead.

There are many benefits to be gained by choosing to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet,but it does require not only commitment but also education and variety. If under proper guidance and some knowledge, vegetarians and vegans can reap multiple and long lasting healthy benefits.

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