Coming up, is National Vegetarian Week (10–16 of May). But what is its purpose? What might it achieve?
Let’s begin with food choices, and what might a change of diet do for you. We live a privileged life in this country, spoiled with myriad of choices of everything from toothpaste to cars. But especially foods and processed food products. The smorgasboard includes whatever cultural flavour you desire, and whatever food definition you fall into, be it carnivore, omnivore or herbivore. And if your basic preference is to eat more plant foods, then your options run from fruitarian, vegan, lacto-ovo-vegetarian, lacto-vegetarian, ovo-vegetarian, pescatarian to flexitarian.
The vegetarian diet has risen in popularity recently with more restaurants offering wide vegetarian/vegan menus. There’s also a rise in the number of actual vegetarian and vegan restaurants. The choice to go vegetarian or vegan is driven by a variety of motivations. The trend to “saving the planet” is an increasingly popular one, especially among younger people, and has led to an increased motivation for veganism.
And there are many great options for those transitioning to a no-meat diet, such as Veggie Delights, V2 Foods, Beyond Patties, Impossible Burgers, Lamyong soy-based foods and Gardein Golden Fish Fillets, to name but a few. The question is, does dining on this smorgasboard of mock meats encompass what it means to be a nutritionally healthy plant-eating, and/ or planet-saving activist?
There is plenty of evidence of the physical and mental health benefits from removing animal products from one’s diet. A vegetarian/vegan diet has demonstrated benefits, including lowering the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers and the severity of inflammatory disorders[1,2]. But a vegan diet doesn’t automatically make for a healthful diet. There are still important intentional food choices to be made by the vegan/vegetarian-oriented person. It is not just about cutting out meat from your diet. For example, one can be a vegetarian/vegan but still consume mostly foods that are highly processed, high in sugar, salt, unhealthy fats and imbalanced in nutrition. We have the power and privilege of choosing how we can eat more healthfully as a vegetarian or vegan, or as any one of the variations mentioned above. And that comes down to motivation and purpose.
The whole-food, plant-based diet takes in veganism with a new approach in returning the intent of going back to the basics to eating whole-plant foods. Vegetables, fruits, legumes and beans are created with a plethora of levels of textures, colour and hardness, and contain numerous anti-ageing[4, 5] and anti-inflammatory properties. They can be enjoyed in their wholeness, with the accompaniment of grains and herbs that enhance their flavour. Having whole-food plant-based with a rainbow of colours on your plate reduces inflammation[6, 7] and cholesterol levels, renews your gut microbiome [9, 10], reduces the risk of cancer development and slows ageing .
During Vegetarian Week (and beyond), take up the challenge of choosing a more balanced and colourful food platter, one that contains more whole-food choices and meets the recommended 5–6 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit per day. If you aren’t a vegetarian, try it just for this week. You have nothing to lose when it comes to investing in your health. With your choice you have the power to make positive changes for a life-changing experience.
Vegetarian Week 2021 Challenge
Wholistic Health Expo
Head to the Health Network Expo 2021 page for more the event.
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1. Appleby PN, Key TJ. The long-term health of vegetarians and vegans. Proc Nutr Soc. 2016 Aug;75(3):287-93. doi:10.1017/ s0029665115004334
2. Dinu M, Abbate R, Gensini GF, Casini A, Sofi F. Vegetarian, vegan diets and multiple health outcomes: A systematic review with meta-analysis of observational studies. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2017 Nov 22;57(17):3640-9. doi:10.1080/10408398.2016.1138447
3. Schüpbach R, Wegmüller R, Berguerand C, Bui M, Herter-Aeberli I. Micronutrient status and intake in omnivores, vegetarians and vegans in Switzerland. Eur J Nutr. 2017 Feb;56(1):283-93. doi:10.1007/ s00394-015-1079-7
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7. Craddock JC, Neale EP, Peoples GE, Probst YC. Vegetarian-Based Dietary Patterns and their Relation with Inflammatory and Immune Biomarkers: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Adv Nutr. 2019 May 1;10(3):433-51. doi:10.1093/advances/nmy103
8. Ha V, Sievenpiper JL, de Souza RJ, Jayalath VH, Mirrahimi A, Agarwal A, et al. Effect of dietary pulse intake on established therapeutic lipid targets for cardiovascular risk reduction: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Cmaj. 2014 May 13;186(8):E252-62. doi:10.1503/cmaj.131727
9. Tomova A, Bukovsky I, Rembert E, Yonas W, Alwarith J, Barnard ND, et al. The Effects of Vegetarian and Vegan Diets on Gut Microbiota. Frontiers in nutrition. 2019;6:47-. doi:10.3389/fnut.2019.00047
10. Medawar E, Huhn S, Villringer A, Veronica Witte A. The effects of plant-based diets on the body and the brain: a systematic review. Translational Psychiatry. 2019 2019/09/12;9(1):226. doi:10.1038/s41398-019-0552-0
11. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Australia’s health 2018. Canberra: AIHW; 2018. [cited 2020 Mar 6]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/getme dia/7c42913d-295f-4bc9-9c24-4e44eff4a04a/aihw-aus-221.pdf.