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Dieting: Is it for me, you, and who?

Jessica Dunker • Aug 5, 2017 at 11:21 PM

With a growing emphasis on local and organic foods, many people are experimenting with healthier diet plans.

Dieting might be old news, but there are still choices that could be unfamiliar: think “vegan.” And “pescatarism.” Or “paleo.”

A new word to many is veganism, a diet that consists of no meat and no animal by-products, including dairy. Many Americans are taking on the vegan diet, approximately two million in 2016.

The vegan diet consists of lots of fruits and vegetables and other whole foods that lack the saturated fats cheese, milk and eggs contain. The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recognize that veganism is suitable for every age and stage of life.

“Just by personal choice, I do it for dietary reasons,” said 20-year-old Jimmy Stewart, who has been a vegan for two years.

“As it got easier, I found that it was much easier to maintain a healthy diet. … Obviously I can still cheat sometimes, but when I’m eating good and the right amount, I feel like I have a lot of energy, so that’s an added benefit.”

Nutritionist Monique Richard practices her own variation of veganism in her personal life. As a professional, she works at both State of Franklin Healthcare Associates in Johnson City and Mountain Regions Family Medicine in Kingsport, and runs her own practice, Nutrition-In-Sight.

From a nutritionist’s standpoint, veganism can be a healthy diet for any individual.

“If it is balanced and varied in food groups, then it can actually be very, very healthy and preventive of diseases,” Richard said. “Food can definitely be considered medicine.”

You might be concerned about getting the proper vitamins and minerals. For extra support, Stewart said, “I take a multivitamin and a B12 supplement, which your body doesn’t naturally produce enough B12 anyway. … As for protein, I try to get as much with my diet, but lately I’ve been buying a protein supplement.”

If veganism seems too extreme, vegetarianism is another alternative.

Vegetarianism is a diet with no meat — so no beef, no chicken, no pork, no fish, and sometimes no eggs, depending on preference.

According to Harvard Health, data from 2016 showed approximately six to eight million Americans did not eat meat in their daily diet. Many Americans are trying a meatless diet, whether for health reasons or moral.

Studies have shown both veganism and vegetarianism can be considered a healthier diet than the standard omnivore diet.

Many wonder where the protein comes from, but that’s an easy fix. Plenty of vegetables offer the appropriate proteins, vitamins and minerals for the proper diet.

For protein, beans are the best natural resource. Whether it’s black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, soybeans, and so forth, they’re all high in protein. Lentils, split peas and black-eyed peas are good choices too. Add some of your favorite vegetables on the side and there’s a healthy meal.

If vegetarianism still doesn’t sound like something for you, then perhaps pescatarism is a better match. Pescatarism is a diet with fish as the main source of meat.

According to the American Heart Association, unlike the other meats, the unsaturated fats in fish are actually good for you. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

And if pescetarianism is too much of a leap, a paleo diet may be the best choice. A paleo diet includes eating low-carb and gluten-free selections, but it also means consuming white meats as the main source of protein. White meats include fish, chicken and turkey.

Red meats, such as beef, pork and lamb, have more cholesterol and saturated fats than white meats. Cholesterol and saturated fats raise blood cholesterol and increase the chance of heart disease. The lower the intake the better, especially for those with high cholesterol.

Dieting can be hard, especially when food is so readily available on every corner, but the benefits can be great. Alternating these diets to fulfill personal requirements is recommended too. Being healthy is certainly a huge plus, but feeling healthy gives people the motivation to continue to care for their bodies.

“It can actually be recommended for all ages across the spectrum,” Richard said of veganism. “I would just emphasize to meet with a dietician who is familiar with this.”

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