Virtually Vegetarian: What you should know and where to find it

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Being a vegetarian is still something of a conversation killer even in today’s health-conscious society. “What do you eat, then?” is muttered quietly, as images of gourmet meat pies are tossed aside in favor of green salads. Vegetarianism has actually shown a slight decline over the last decade, although statistics show that many people have been vegetarians at one time in their lives. Overall, however, the vegetarian lifestyle is still as popular as ever, as evidenced by the increasing number of vegetarian products and meat substitutes entering the market.

Vegetarians come in different forms:

• Lacto-Ovo. People who eat no fish or meat, but who eat dairy products and eggs

• Ovo. Vegetarians who eat eggs but no dairy products

• Lacto. Those who eat no meat or eggs, but who eat dairy products

• Vegan. The strictest of vegetarians, vegans eat no form of animal product or by-product

• Semi. Those who try the vegetarian lifestyle but still enjoy the occasional hamburger

Before the advantages of the vegetarian lifestyle were documented, people assumed that vegetarians were insipid, thin, pale creatures. But with a number of famous celebrities touting the benefits of vegetarianism, that attitude has undergone a positive makeover. Vegetarians run the risk of suffering from a lack of iron, protein, Vitamin B and calcium if they do not balance their diets. But a knowledge of nutritional sources should ensure that this does not happen. Protein can be obtained from nuts, seeds, tofu, veggie burgers and grains. Vitamin B2 can be found in leafy green vegetables, almonds and mushrooms. Many vegetarian products are now fortified with Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D as an aid against any deficiency that may occur. Calcium can be found in tofu, leafy green vegetables, dried fruit and watercress. Most of the soy milk found on the market is calcium fortified.

As a vegetarian, you do not have to worry about raising your cholesterol by eating too much red meat. Research has also shown that many vegetarians suffer less from obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, Type II diabetes, diet-related cancers, constipation and gallstones. Even if you don’t embrace the vegetarian lifestyle wholeheartedly, trying a veggie meal once in a while certainly can’t do you any harm.   

Michelle Sweeney is the owner of Tonic Gifts (www.tonicgifts.com.au). This article is adapted from one she wrote for Female Thiink, www.femalethiink.com.

Black Vegetarians
Vegetarianism is a growing trend among African-American celebrities and non-celebrities alike. (Among current vegetarians are Angela Bassett, Erykah Badu, Carl Lewis, Dre of Outkast, Russell Simmons and India.Arie; the late Coretta Scott King was also a vegetarian.) For recipes and other resources, see the following Web sites:

Black Vegetarians
www.blackvegetarians.org

Black Vegetarian Society of
New York
212-714-VEGE (8343)
bvsny@hotmail.com

International African Vegetarian Network and Friends
718-723-8117
cmw8351_1@hotmail.com