Some of the common buzzwords in healthy living circles are vegetarian and vegan. While the two refer to a somewhat similar lifestyle, they are different.
Regina Nantege, a dietician, says a vegetarian is someone who does not eat meat or consume any kind of animal product, while a vegan does not consume animal products but also stays away from milk, eggs, honey or any by-product made from animal or animal skin. “So a vegan is a pure form of vegetarianism,” Nantenge explains. According to Nantege, vegetarianism has different sub-categories which will accommodate those interested in embracing the lifestyle.
Lacto ovo vegetarian
People under this diet exclude meat or flesh but may include eggs and milk (dairy products).
People under this diet can either choose to consume only eggs as a single dairy product or all the dairy products such as milk, yoghurt, and cream but exclude eggs from their diet.
Demi Vegetarians consume fish, eggs, other dairy products but not meat while semi vegetarians eat meat but in small quantities or go through periods when they do not eat meat.
According to Dr Moses Semulya, a general practitioner at Le Memorial Hospital Kigo, a vegetarian or vegan diet is low in saturated fatty acids, cholesterol, lowers body mass index and blood pressure, reduces risks for heart disease, diabetes, and cancer and prolongs healthy life.
“While this diet has many benefits, it becomes a challenge having to find other foods to replace the nutrients found in animal foods, such as vitamins D and B12, iron, zinc, and calcium. It is important to talk to a professional who is knowledgeable about which plant foods contain key nutrients and how to supplement properly if needed,” Dr. Semulya advises.
Other people choose their diet for ethical reasons. By not consuming any dairy product be it milk, eggs, cheese, honey and avoid the usage of any product made by animal skin or parts, they hope to preserve the lives of animals and the environment at large. The committed ones go an extra mile and cut out any materials derived from animals such as leather, fur, wool, silk and any cosmetics that are made with or tested on animals.
Keep in mind that one can gain weight even on a vegetarian diet. Go heavy on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains but limit foods high in saturated fat such as ice cream, whole milk, and cheese. And watch how much you eat at each meal.
If you want to start a vegetarian diet but are still struggling, it is advisable to start small. “You can start by having a vegetarian meal once a week. Replace your meat, poultry or fish with your favourite vegetables. Keep increasing the frequency and intensity until you reach the level you are happy with and is healthy for you,” Nantege advises.
However, it is important for vegetarians and vegans to ensure that they are meeting all of their nutritional requirements. For example, plants do not naturally contain vitamin B-12, so vegans and vegetarians may need to consume fortified foods or take dietary supplements to get enough vitamin B-12.