Thursday, October 29, 2009

in the news

October 26, 2009

Most choose vegetarian diet for their beliefs

Jennifer Adamson
For the News-Leader

Adam Pruett is a registered dietitian and coordinator of the Nutrition Center at St. John's Regional Medical Center.

Question: In general, what is a vegetarian?

Answer: A vegetarian is an individual who does not consume any animal-based or animal-derived foods.

Q: How many different types of vegetarian diets are there?

A: There are four main classes of vegetarians: vegan, lacto-ovo, ovo and lacto.

- Vegans consume strictly plant sources of nutrients. They eat no meat, eggs or dairy.

- Ovo-lacto-vegetarians, who consume dairy and egg products, but no meat.

- Ovo-vegetarians, who eat eggs, but not meat or dairy products.

- Lacto-vegetarians, who eat dairy products, but no meat or eggs.

Q: In your opinion, why do people choose to become vegetarians?

A: Usually, the main reason for following the dietary practice is for philosophical reasons. Many individuals feel this dietary choice allows them to be harmonious with their surroundings.

Sometimes, following the dietary parameters of vegetarianism provides optimal care for underlying health conditions. When the vegetarian diet is followed appropriately, it can provide great health benefits to the individual.

Q: What are the health benefits associated with being a vegetarian?

A: Following the diet will provide vast amounts of vitamins and minerals needed by the body. Also, intake of dietary fiber will increase exponentially compared to the typical American diet.

If portions are still controlled and the individual consumes appropriate amounts of protein, carbohydrates and plant-based fats, they can lose/maintain a healthy weight without the risk of deficiencies.

Q: Are there any health risks, especially with being on a raw food diet?

A: The major health risk associated with vegetarianism involves various vitamin/mineral deficiencies.

If the dietary plan is not followed appropriately, the individual may suffer from a lack of proper amounts of protein, vitamin B12, calcium, zinc, iron and vitamin D. Symptoms may include muscle wasting, nerve-tissue damage, tongue deformities, osteoporosis, poor wound healing, anemia and lethargy.

Any time you deal with raw food, you must be extra careful with preparation. Make sure all utensils, the preparation area and storage tools are clean prior to use. Also, wash your hands as much as possible to avoid cross-contamination.

Q: Is there an age up until which a child needs the nutrients in meat, poultry or fish to grow properly, or is being a vegetarian acceptable at any age?

A: Any age can follow the vegetarian diet if the dietary plan provides adequate nutrition to prevent deficiencies and promote appropriate growth.

Typically, children following a vegan diet if they are under 5 years of age can obtain enough nutrition to maintain growth, but it will be slower and in the low-normal category.