Vegetarianism as a way of life
An increasing number of people are making the conscious decision in favour of a vegan or vegetarian diet. However, it is no longer just a matter of food alone; this decision is usually based on a desire for healthy and sustainable living to the greatest extent possible. Choosing a balanced form of nutrition without animal products contributes to achieving a considerable improvement in the environmental balance, for example through a reduction in pasture and breeding areas or greenhouse gases. It can also reflect a commitment to a more conscious approach to nature.
A growing trend
On the whole, it can be said that people are becoming increasingly aware of how they treat their bodies; they are displaying more interest in sustaining the environment and paying more attention to the conditions in which animals live. Over the recent years and decades this has given a huge boost to the number of people who prefer a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle. The term “vegetarian” comes from the Latin word “vegetus”, which roughly means “physically and mentally fit and healthy”. The modern term “veggies” is used generally for people who do not eat meat. There are many different types of vegetarian diet, however.
Forms of vegetarianism
- Vegan: No animal products, including eggs and dairy products
- Lacto-vegetarian: No meat products, fish or eggs
- Ovo-vegetarian: No meat or dairy products
- Ovo-lacto vegetarian: No meat products or fish
Balanced supply of nutrients while still avoiding certain foods
A vegan and vegetarian diet includes copious amounts of fruit and vegetables. This generally delivers a better supply of many micronutrients, such as vitamin C and vitamin E or folic acid and phytonutrients, than a mixed diet.
As a rule, plant foods contain more complex carbohydrates and fibre, and less protein and total fat. They usually supply less energy with the same amount of food than a mixed diet. The higher quantity of fibre means that hunger is kept at bay for longer. Plentiful amounts of the minerals potassium and magnesium are found in fruit and vegetables. Nuts are also credited with positive effects; for example, walnuts contribute to improving the elasticity of the blood vessels.
However, if animal food products are avoided completely, there is the risk of an insufficient consumption of certain micronutrients that are obtained predominantly from animal sources. Vegans and vegetarians are usually aware of this risk and know about these critical nutrients and the potential alternative sources. It is important to choose a varied selection of the correct foods and to learn about which substitutes are available.
Nutrients that possibly cannot be consumed in sufficient quantities, such as iron, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, iodine and vitamin D3, with a vegan diet also vitamin B12, vitamin B2 and calcium, can be supplied as appropriate from sources such as plant foods (e.g. legumes, nuts or soya products), or supplemented in a micronutrient combination with a specific composition.