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October is Vegetarian Month!

By Elizabeth Hall, MS, RDN, LDN • Oct 16, 2019 at 12:00 AM

October is Vegetarian Month, which is the perfect time to focus on eating more fruits, vegetables and plant-based proteins, even if you do still choose to eat meat!

There are many different types of vegetarianism. The base of a typical vegetarian diet is fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds. But there are differences beyond this base depending on the individual. Lacto-ovo vegetarians, for instance, consume dairy and eggs, while lacto-vegetarians follow a similar diet but do not eat eggs. A vegan, however, avoids all animal-based products, which in addition to meat also includes dairy products, lard and gelatin. Honey is also not eaten by some vegans.

Individuals have different motivations for choosing a vegetarian diet. Some reasons could include food preference or a dislike for meat, while some individuals avoid animal products for ethical or environmental reasons. Others may avoid certain meat products due to religious beliefs or restrictions. Still others choose a vegetarian lifestyle out of health concerns.

There are many potential benefits of adopting a plant-based lifestyle. A vegetarian style of eating has been associated with improved longevity and lower levels of obesity and other chronic diseases such as heart disease. These benefits could be due to consuming a lower proportion of calories from fat and fewer calories overall or from consuming more nutrient-rich foods high in fiber, potassium and vitamin C.

Animal proteins are termed “complete proteins” since they contain all of the essential amino acids needed by the body that must be consumed through diet. To make sure vegetarians are meeting their protein needs, it is important that they focus on pairing foods together that complement each other’s amino acid content — in other words, that provide all of these essential amino acids. Examples of complementary proteins are rice and beans or whole grain bread with peanut butter.

Remember that plant-based doesn’t have to mean plants only. Even if you are not a vegetarian, all of us could benefit from eating more plant-based foods. There are many nutritious options throughout the grocery store, so it’s easy to eat more plants!

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