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Knowledgebase: Nutritional Information
Why do people adopt vegetarian diets?
Posted by Stephan Mackenzie on 22 April 2011 11:18 AM
The reasons for becoming a vegetarian are many and varied. Many people are vegetarians as a result of religious beliefs. In addition, semi vegetarians usually believe that red meat is harmful to health, particularly--but not exclusively--to heart health. Lacto and lacto-ovo vegetarians might add that there is a moral dimension, based on a belief that animals have the same right to live as we do. Because dairy foods and eggs can be collected without killing (or harming) the animals that provide them, lacto and lacto-ovo vegetarians might be justified in considering themselves more humane than meat eaters. Vegans would almost certainly agree with the moral argument but would probably add that--unlike milk and eggs--plants contain no cholesterol and most plant foods have little 'saturated fat' (a type of fat that is associated with increased risk of heart disease). It is worth noting that coconut oil and palm oil are exceptions in that most of the fat from these plant foods is saturated.The higher levels of many vitamins, fiber, antioxidants and other substances believed to be of nutritional benefit in foods of plant origin are also used as arguments for greater health benefits of vegetarian diets. Many vegetarians believe that, in addition to health benefits and moral considerations, there is also reduced environmental degradation (ie, increased sustainability) associated with vegetarianism. In some countries there are special reasons for considering adopting a vegetarian diet. Some teenagers--mainly girls--adopt a vegetarian diet because they think it will lead to weight loss. In a few cases, changing to an extreme vegetarian diet can be a smokescreen for an eating disorder. So although many girls follow a vegetarian diet--and only a small number develop an eating disorder--it is worth watching for any changes that lead to severely restricted total food intake.
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