Some people believe we cannot obtain all the nutrients we require from a vegetarian diet. In this article, we will explore how true this belief is, the benefits of a vegetarian diet and some vegetarian substitutes to popular non-veg items.
What is a Vegetarian Diet?
A vegetarian diet is one that excludes meat and fish and may or may not include dairy and eggs. It is different from a pescatarean diet, which excludes only meat and not fish, and from a vegan diet, which excludes all animal products.
Components of a Healthy Diet
Carbohydrates - These are the main sources of energy for our brain and muscles. Whole grains, tubers, nuts and seeds, beans and pulses, fruits and vegetables, all provide healthy carbohydrates.
Protein - Protein helps build muscle, and keeps our organs, skin and hair healthy. Plant foods like pulses, dals and nuts make an excellent substitute. While meat and poultry are the primary source of protein in many parts of the world, for vegetarians, dairy products like milk, curd, paneer are also good sources of protein.
Unsaturated fats - Fats help protect our organs and keep us warm. While saturated fats are obtained from dairy, these fats can be detrimental to health when consumed in excess. Unsaturated fats are a healthier option and can be obtained from foods like plant oils, nuts and seeds.
Vitamins and Minerals - Vitamins are essential for good immunity, and for the proper functioning of the body’s chemical processes. A variety of fresh fruit and vegetables are the best way to ensure you’re getting your vitamins. Minerals play a number of structural and regulatory roles in the body.
Fibre - Fibre helps with digestion and also helps keep cholesterol in check. Fruit, vegetables and whole grains are all sources of fibre.
Water - Water plays an essential role in every bodily function. Human body comprises of roughly 60% water and hence water is an essential component to good health. It helps prevent dehydration & constipation. The average adult requires about 6-8 glasses of water daily.
Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet
It has been shown that people following a vegetarian diet have better heart-health and are less likely to suffer from high cholesterol. One study with a sample size of 70,000 people even showed that incidences of cancer were lower in vegetarians than in non-vegetarians. Further, a vegetarian diet has proven to be effective in both the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes . Another one of the benefits of a vegetarian diet is that it’s a healthier and more sustainable option for the environment.
Vegetarian Substitutes to Popular Non-Veg Items
Mushrooms and jackfruit are both known for their meaty texture and can make an excellent substitute in burgers and stir frys. Tofu is soy-based, rich in protein and absorbs flavours well, just like chicken. Beans like rajma and chawli are also good sources of plant protein and work well in veg patties. Dals are versatile and can be used to make protein rich curries, chillas, soups or even desserts. Try Tata Sampann’s range of unpolished dals and pulses. They do not undergo artificial polishing with water, oil or leather which means they have lower moisture content (8-10%) compared to loose dals available in the market (>10%).
Eat right, stay healthy!
- The Association between a Vegetarian Diet and Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) Risk Factors in India: The Indian Migration Study [PLOS One]
- Effects of Vegetarian Diets on Blood Lipids: A Systematic Review and Meta‐Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials [NCBI]
- Vegetarian diets and the incidence of cancer in a low-risk population [NCBI]
- Vegetarian Diets and the Risk of Diabetes [NCBI]
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