A Vegetarian Diet – What You Need To Know
Food is any substance eaten to give nutrition to an organism for its proper growth and development. The primary source of nourishment for animals is meat, whereas the primary source of nutrition for plants is the vegetable. Plants derive all of their nourishment from food and in some instances, even from water. The major groups of food are carbohydrates, proteins, vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains, oils, seeds, nuts, cereals, and alcoholic beverages. There are many other food types that are consumed by man on a daily basis. The type of food eaten and the amount consumed determines the individual’s diet.
Food is divided into two categories, namely, solid and liquid. Solid food comprises of the foods that are eaten in form of bread, cereal, pasta, and other similar products, whereas liquids include the beverages that are consumed in large amounts, like coffee, tea, chocolate, and so on. There is a major difference between the two categories of food. While food is consumed, solid food is kept in reserve for emergency situations, whereas liquids are used immediately.
A balanced diet is necessary for the proper growth and development of an individual. It should contain a sufficient quantity of food for the growth and maintenance of the body and its organs. Animal sources of food are animal products such as meat, milk, eggs and furs; plant sources of food are animal products like fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes; and human foods are processed forms of food, such as refined sugars, salt, flour and carbohydrates. The three categories of food are usually classified according to the extent that they provide protein, mineral and nutrient content and calories. Foods from animal sources are rich in protein and contain more vitamins and minerals than plant sources of food.
Vegetables and fruits constitute the largest part of an average diet and are the richest in vitamin and mineral content, and low in calories. It comprises mainly beans, lentils, grains (including millet, sorghum, amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa and barley), seeds and nuts; and legumes (beans, peas, nuts, corn, seeds, vegetables and fruits). Animal products, legumes and vegetables provide a wide range of foods for the diet.
Animal source food provides high quality protein, fats and other nutrients, but at relatively higher calories. Meat, dairy, poultry and fish foods provide all the essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Fruits and vegetables provide the bulk of the food group and contain a variety of nutrients that include carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and fat. Some of the most important food groups are protein, carbohydrate, fat, fiber, sugar and starch. Each food has both a basic group of carbohydrates and fiber, which are needed for the body to maintain the energy balance; fat, which is important to keep the body temperature normal and provides the energy to carry out many functions; and starch, which is the source of energy for most plant foods.
Animal food has been the center of debates for many years over the amount of saturated fats they contain and the cholesterol levels they contain. The animal world has responded to the increasing demands by incorporating more nutritious grains and legumes into their diets, but this does not mean that we have completely gotten off the meat wagon. Many people argue that whole grains and legumes contain a nutritionally balanced diet, while animal products such as meat, eggs and dairy products should be eaten in moderation. Many vegetarians have come to the conclusion that they do not need to eat meat or eggs if they do not want to, but many people who follow a vegetarian lifestyle still include them in their diet. Although it is difficult to avoid meat and eggs in today’s modern diets, the alternatives provided by grains and legumes provide a sensible compromise for people who are on a restricted calorie diet or who have special dietary needs.