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Vegetarian diets: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help


Why is it used?

The most common reason for choosing to become vegetarian is for ethical and ecological reasons. Eating meat is also thought by some to be unhealthy.

Who would require the diet?

The vegetarian diet is not just one single diet but several. The reasons for choosing one particular vegetarian diet over another depend on the individual and their particular beliefs.

What is the diet and how does it work?

Vegetarian diets can be classified in the following groups starting with the diet with most restrictions:

  • Vegan - avoid all animal products
  • Lacto-Vegetarians - avoid meat, fish and eggs
  • Lacto-Ovo-Vegetarians - avoid meat and fish
  • Semi -Vegetarians - eat fish and or chicken/turkey - avoid red meat only

The latter is not strictly vegetarian and often is the choice based on health grounds, i.e. avoiding red meat due to health issues.

A well-balanced vegetarian diet is healthy, it tends to be higher in fibre, fruit and vegetables than a traditional meat based diet and people who choose to eat such a diet are often of normal body weight. There are many studies that suggest that vegetarian diets are very healthy and show benefits such as reduced risks of cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. These benefits could also be attributed to a higher fruit and vegetable intake, which would also be possible while still eating meat.

Will the diet harm me?

Protein - although vegetarians eat less protein than their meat eating counterparts, it is usually adequate for their needs.

Vitamins - with the exception of vitamin B12 all vitamins can be achieved easily with the vegetarian diet, Vitamin B12 is exclusively found in animal foods such as meat, fish, milk, cheese and eggs, therefore Vegan's would need a supplement. In practice it is rare for a vegan to have a deficiency of vitamin B12, this is because the gut may make some for its own use and that some raw plants may have some microbial growth, which produces its own B12.

If eating cheese and milk, calcium intake should be satisfactory, some vegan children may find it difficult to meet their dietary reference value, but research has shown that bone growth and development appears to be normal. Pregnant and breast-feeding vegan women may need to take calcium supplements.

What else do I need to know?

Just as meat eating diets can be healthy or unhealthy so can the vegetarian diet, it is largely a matter of choosing and eating food sensibly. Simply excluding meat or fish is not good enough; vegetarians should aim to choose foods based upon vegetable sources of protein such as pulses (peas, beans, lentils) nuts and seeds.

Where else can I get help?

The following groups are able to provide help with meeting like-minded people as well as help with ideas about food.

The Vegetarian Society
Durham Rd
WA14 4QG

Tel: 0161 925 2000
Fax: 0161 926 6982

The Vegan Society
7 Battle Road
St Lenoards on Sea
East Sussex
TN37 7AA

Tel: 01424 427393