www.whyville.net Feb 8, 2009 Weekly Issue

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Vegetarianism for Dummies

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Author's Note: I know that some of the words used in this article are very large and hard to understand, and I'm sorry if you have a hard time reading them. Just try to understand them to the best of your abilities. Thanks!

Why I Became A Vegetarian

I haven't been a vegetarian for very long. Just a few days, actually. It was during the Superbowl, and my dad brought out this huge rack of ribs. And that's when it hit me. Something actually died for this.

Of course I'd known that something had died for it before, but it didn't seem that bad. But when I saw that rack of ribs, eating meat just seemed, so, well . . . wrong.

So I did my research, and I actually found out that there are many types of vegetarians.

The Types Of Vegetarians

The first one is a lactovegetarian. They don't eat any meat, fish, poultry or eggs. They do eat dairy products.

The second one is lacto-ovo-vegeatrian. They don't eat meat, fish or poultry. They do eat eggs and dairy products.

Next is a semivegetarian. They don't eat meat, but they may eat small amounts of fish and poultry. They do eat eggs and dairy products.

Lastly is a vegan. Vegans don't eat meat, fish, poultry, eggs or dairy, nor do they wear anything made out of leather or fur.

Benefits and Risks


Leanness: Vegetarians tend to be more physically active then nonvegetarians. Higher intakes of dietary fiber may decrease absorption of food by 2-3% and contribute to a feeling of fullness.

Lower blood pressure: Vegans, who consume a diet very low in fat, tend to have blood pressures 10 to 15 mm Hg lower than nonvegetarians of similar age and gender. Much of this effect appears to be related to body weight rather than other dietary variables.

Lower serum cholesterol: Total blood cholesterol levels are lower in vegans than in lactovegetarians or nonvegetarians. Whole-fat milk products and eggs tend to raise serum blood lipids due to their saturated fat and cholesterol content. Vegetarians often use non- or lowfat milk, and vegans use no milk or eggs at all.

Less colon cancer: Diets high in meat may increase the incidence of colon cancer by increasing the fecal concentration of various carcinogens. A high intake of animal fat also may increase the risk of colon cancer. It is also possible that carcinogens are produced by cooking meat at very high temperatures.


Rickets: Vegan children who have limited sun exposure may be at risk of developing rickets secondary to vitamin D deficiency. One study found very low intakes of calcium and vitamin D among macrobiotic infants. Only one received a daily supplement of vitamin D, and 15 (28%) were found to have rickets. Another study found low serum concentrations of vitamin D among lactating macrobiotic women living in Boston.

Iron-deficiency anemia: Low serum ferritin levels (a sensitive measure of iron storage status) were found in 5% of male and 27% of female lacto-ovo-vegetarians, and mean ferritin levels of omnivores were significantly higher than those of vegetarians in one recent study.

Macrocytic anemia: Signs of vitamin B12 deficiency have been observed in some breast-fed infants of women who are strict vegetarians.

Emaciation or slowed growth: Excessive leanness and/or slow growth are have been noted among vegan and vegetarian infants and young children after weaning.

What To Eat

Food Group: Legumes (beans, peas, lentils)
Limiting Amino Acids: Tryptophan, methionine
Combine With: Grains, nuts/seeds
Example: Lentil soup with cornbread, peanut-sesame seed mix.

Food Group: Grains (wheat, rice, oats, barley, corn, rye)
Limiting Amino Acids: Lysine, isoleucine, threonine
Combine With: Legumes, dairy
Example: Kidney beans and rice

Food Group: Nuts/seeds (almond, cashew, filbert, pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, walnut)
Limiting Amino Acids: Lysine, isoluecine
Combine With: Legumes
Example: Kidney bean soup with sesame seeds; whole-grain cereal with milk

Food Group: Animal foods
Limiting Amino Acids: Not as limited
Combine With: Any of above
Example: Vegetables with yogurt dressing

Practical Tips

* Include foods that are both dense in calories and nutrients.
* Choose foods that provide enough iron, calcium and zinc.
* Low-fat or skim milk, or milk products such as yogurt and cheese are excellent sources of calcium for lacto-(ovo)vegetarians.
* Lacto-ovo-vegetarians can get zinc from egg products.
* Limit foods that are high in phytates and oxalates, since phytates can inhibit the absorption of iron, calcium and zinc.

Why Become A Vegetarian?

People may be vegetarians for a variety of reasons. Younger vegetarians are usually part of a family that eats vegetarian meals for health, cultural, or other reasons. Older kids and adults may become vegetarians because of concern for animals, the environment, or their own health.

What To Do If You Decide To Become A Vegetarian

First, you should see a doctor or a registered dietitian. They can help you plan and monitor a healthy vegetarian diet.

Parents should give their kids a variety of foods that provide enough calories and nutrients to enable them to grow normally.

A well-planned vegetarian diet can meet kids nutritional needs and has some health benefits.

Here are some nutrients that vegetarians should get and some of their best food sources:

- Vitamin B12: dairy products, eggs, and vitamin-fortified products, such as cereals, breads, and soy and rice drinks, and nutritional yeast.
- Vitamin D: milk, vitamin D-fortified orange juice, and other vitamin D-fortified products.
- Calcium: dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, dried beans, and calcium-fortified products, including orange juice, soy and rice drinks, and cereals.
- Protein: dairy products, eggs, tofu and other soy products, dried beans, and nuts.
- Iron: eggs, dried beans, dried fruits, whole grains, leafy green vegetables, and iron-fortified cereals and bread.
- Zinc: wheat germ, nuts, fortified cereal, dried beans, and pumpkin seeds.

Vegetarian . . .


The main sources of protein and nutrients for infants are breast milk and formula. Drinking less than 1 liter of formula should get enough Vitamin D supplements.

Once an infant is introduced to soldis, protein-rich vegetarian foods can include pureed tofu, cottage cheese, yogurt or soy yogurt, and pureed and strained legumes.


It is important for vegetarian toddlers to get enough of the essential vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin D, vitamin B12, iron, calcium, and zinc.

Toddlers tend to be picky eaters, and some may not get enough calories. It is very important that the parent makes sure that the child gets enough calories.

Older Kids and Teens:

Preteens and teens often become vegetarians as a sign of independence.

If it's done right, a meat-free diet can actually be a good choice for adolescents, especially considering that they will get more of the foods that many teens are lacking--fruits and vegetables.

I hope that my facts about vegetarianism will show you the least seen side of the ongoing argument between vegetarians and nonvegetarians.

I also hope that, if you are indeed considering vegetarianism, you follow the advice in this article.


Author's Note: Sources:


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