The vegetarianism (or vegetarianism) consists in adopting a food diet that strictly excludes the intake of meat from any animal.
The term vegetarianism it derives from the English word "vegetarian": That lives and grows like a plant ("vegetable"). The Latin derivation of this term is also interesting: vegetus in fact it means "vigorous, active, healthy". From the etymology of this term, the connotations are therefore entirely positive.
It is important to know that within the vegetarianism there are different types of habits and dietary rules that we can distinguish as follows, starting with diets that include a greater variety of foods up to the most restrictive ones:
- Lacto Ovo Vegetarianism: in addition to admitting any plant element, it provides for the possibility of indirectly consuming products derived from animals, such as eggs, milk, cheeses, honey, algae of all types, yeasts (e.g. mushrooms) and enzymes lactic (and more generally any type of bacterium).
- Lacto Vegetarianism: unlike the previous category, it does not allow the consumption of eggs and, in some cases, of yeasts (Vaishnava Hindu diet).
- Ovo Vegetarianism: in addition to excluding eggs, it also excludes dairy products and its derivatives.
- Diet veganism (or vegetalism): it admits any element of vegetable origin (including yeasts, algae and bacteria) and excludes all elements of animal origin.
- Vegan raw food: provides the possibility of taking any food that has not been cooked with a temperature above 40 degrees. It is therefore for example fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds, cereals and legumes.
- Fructarism: it is a diet that involves eating exclusively fruit, nuts and seeds, also including fruit vegetables such as tomatoes, courgettes, cucumbers and peppers.
It is clear that the diets listed above, although all included in "vegetarianism" (or vegetarianism), have significantly different characteristics and provide a variety of different nutritional elements.
In all cases, carbohydrates are the main component of the diet and the greatest source of energy, as recommended by medical studies on the best types of dietary diets.
The potential protein intake of major vegetarian diets may also be in line with the recommended values to ensure one balanced diet. On the other hand, the intake of saturated fatty acids (SFA) with beneficial effects on health, in relation to the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, are limited.
The vegetarianism it almost totally avoids the risk of becoming obese, especially due to the reduced quantity of fats provided in the diet (fats of animal origin are completely eliminated in some of the types of diets mentioned above), with multiple positive effects on our body.
The levels of calcium, vitamin D and zinc may be below those recommended in vegan diets.
Numerous studies have confirmed that even competitive athletes can adopt a balanced vegetarian diet, benefiting from an adequate intake of carbohydrates and a reduced intake of fat.
The only element judged to be deficient compared to the levels recommended by nutritionists, in all vegetarian diets except in the Lacto-Ovo-Vegetarian and Lacto-Vegetarian diets, is vitamin B12 which is contained in meat, eggs and dairy products.
To compensate for this lack, it is possible to recommend vegetable milks, cereals or soy products to your diet. Alternatively, it is possible to take vitamin B12 through special supplements in capsules available in pharmacies, in stores specialized in food supplements or in the sections dedicated to supplements present in a growing number of supermarkets.
The intake of vitamin B12 is particularly important in pregnant women, to avoid health problems (even serious ones) in the unborn child.
Vegetarianism and sustainability
Vegetarian diets have a significantly higher level of environmental sustainability than diets that involve meat intake as animal husbandry is one of the main causes of the increase in CO2 emissions. The main pollutant deriving from farms is methane is produced by the digestive processes of the rumen of cattle, sheep and goats and by the evaporation of the gases contained in the manure.
A study by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has established that over 50% of greenhouse gases, and in particular methane, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, are the main cause of global warming and that 51% of these gases are emitted from farms against 14% deriving from services and activities related to transport by land, water and sea.
Adopting a vegetarian diet, discouraging the creation of new intensive farms, is therefore an important contribution to the protection of our environment which risks being irreparably compromised by global warming.
Vegetarianism and ethics
A diet that does not include the consumption of animal meats can also be inspired by ethical reasons that materialize in respect for the life and rights of animals that in intensive farming spend their entire lives in confined spaces and in totally unnatural conditions, with only order to make the meat available to man to eat.
Respect for animal rights is our duty, especially after science has shown how many similarities exist with mankind, in genetic and physiological terms, including the perception of pain and the sphere of feelings.
Vegetarianism and religion
A substantial number of religions foresee limitations in the consumption of animal meat, some towards particular types and others towards any animal organism.
Vegetarianism of religious inspiration originated from the 6th century BC with movements like theHinduism, which invites vegetarianism, lo Zoroastrianism, based on the teachings of the prophet Zoroaster (or Zarathustra) who followed and preached a vegetarian diet, the Jainism, born in India, which recommends a strictly vegetarian diet and the Buddhism, which invites respect for all living beings.
Vegetarianism in the world
Vegetarian diets are historically very common in eastern countries: in India for example, over 40% of the inhabitants follow a vegetarian diet.
In the last decade, even in Western countries, people who follow a vegetarian diet are increasingly numerous: in Great Britain about 10% of the population is vegetarian, in Germany over 8%, in Italy 6.5% and in the United States United 5%. Lower percentages were found in the countries of Eastern Europe.
However, the percentage of the vegetarian population in the world is constantly increasing and by 2050 there could be more vegetarians in the world than omnivores.
Some studies have found a direct correlation between the rate of people following a vegetarian diet and the level of per capita income: households with higher incomes are vegetarians in a higher than average percentage.
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