Vegetarianism is an adopted diet and lifestyle that 7.3 million Americans follow. Its popularity in America is increasing every year and it is the fastest growing category in food publishing. The demand for more vegetarian recipes, magazines, and other vegetarian-based literature has inspired many to create extensive websites, blogs, and online cookbooks all devoted to helping others convert to the vegetarian diet.
So what does being Vegetarian really mean? Well, the term can have different meanings to different people. Most people who claim to be Vegetarian are Lacto-ovo-vegetarians. This type omits all meat products (beef, poultry, fish, shellfish, or animal flesh of any kind. However, they will still enjoy eggs, milk, and milk products. Pescatarians refrain from eating all meat products, yet still allow fish and other seafood into their diet. Vegans do not eat meat of any kind, dairy, eggs, or any product which has been derived from an animal such as gelatin. They also do not purchase leather, angora, or pelts or fur of any kind. There is some debate as to whether certain foods, such as honey which comes from an animal, yet the animal is not hurt in the process, should be included in the Vegan diet. Vegan Raw foodists follow the vegan diet, yet also exclude any food that has been heated to above 115°F. They believe any food cooked above this temperature has lost a significant amount of its nutritional value and could be harmful to the body. Lastly, there are the Flexitarians. This group mostly abstains from meat products in an effort to promote a healthier lifestyle, yet will still have the occasional chicken dinner. There are 22.8 million Americans like Flexitarians who follow a vegetarian-inclined diet.
No matter what kind of vegetarian diet is followed, the common ground for these Americans is a healthier lifestyle altogether. Scientific research suggests that the vegetarian diet comprised of whole grains, vegetables, legumes, fruits, and nuts, and strict avoidance of meat and high-fat animal products, combined with regular exercise has been linked to lower blood pressure, lower blood cholesterol, and less risk for obesity, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes mellitus.
Alice Jablonski, Tennessee Tech University Dietetic Student
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