Is a complete and balanced diet possible without eating meat?

In 1977, the American Vegetarian Society established October 1 as Vegetarian Day. A year later, the initiative was ratified by the International Vegetarian Union, which declared that date as the International Day of Vegetarianism, which is celebrated throughout the world.

The fundamental objective of that day is to spread the principles of vegetarianism and promote a change in the diet of human beings in general, based on respect for animals.

For some time now, environmental reasons have been added as an argument for many people to stop eating meat, but the truth is that beyond “fashion”, there are health issues that must be taken into account when it comes to eating meat. make any changes to your diet. Even more so, if you think about excluding any food group.

And after ensuring that “human beings are omnivorous by nature,” the endocrinology and obesity specialist considered that “they also have the right to choose a dietary style with which they identify, for different personal reasons.”

Why vegetarian is not synonymous with healthy
“Many eating disorders begin in adolescence with the decision to stop eating meat and this should alert adults.”

“For this reason it is also important to set an example, since as is known, children and adolescents imitate the eating patterns of adults and, in that sense, mothers and fathers must pay attention to the vulnerability of young people,” the expert-. “Deficient diets affect neurodevelopment, sometimes irreversibly.”

Aguirre Ackermann considered that “a vegetarian diet is not necessarily synonymous with healthy, since even if people do not eat meat, they can consume large quantities of unhealthy foods.”

And as an example, he cited a scientific study that “demonstrated that many vegetarian diets were associated with a greater consumption of highly processed products.”

Along the same lines – according to the work mentioned by the specialist – “meat consumers with healthier eating patterns also present a lower cardiovascular risk than meat consumers with unhealthy patterns.”

For her, “this suggests that a lower quality diet contributes to increased cardiovascular risk, and not simply the inclusion or exclusion of meat.”

Using data from three prospective studies, another publication concluded that an unhealthy plant-based diet was associated with a 1.32 times higher risk of coronary heart disease than people who followed a healthy plant-based diet.

How to stop consuming meat without giving up nutrients
Asked about this, Aguirre Ackermann pointed out that “the main points to take into account when planning these diets safely are the volume of food that must be consumed to cover energy needs, the lower digestibility of some foods (especially, of proteins and minerals) and the absence of certain nutrients in foods of plant origin, which must be covered.

Briz maintained that there are three fundamental pillars: “Firstly, achieve the correct replacements so that there is no lack of nutrients, since if a food is removed you have to know how to replace it; secondly, be aware of covering the macro and micronutrient requirements every day and for that it is necessary to be organized and not skip meals, and finally, have clear objectives regarding nutrition, why that type of diet is chosen and taking into account “make these objectives clear, give more importance to food to avoid deficit.”

What are the key nutrients that should not be neglected

  • Proteins. Protein is essential for the body, and there are many plant sources rich in protein, such as legumes, whole grains (quinoa, bulgur, buckwheat, oats), nuts and seeds, soy products, etc.
  • Iron. Iron from plant sources (non-heme iron) is not absorbed as efficiently as iron from animal sources. However, non-heme iron absorption can be improved, for example, by consuming foods rich in vitamin C along with iron sources.
  • Calcium. The inclusion of dairy products in lacto-ovo-vegetarians allows them to ingest enough calcium, he pointed out. If dairy is not consumed, fortified vegetable drinks (almond, soy or rice), green leafy vegetables, chia seeds, almonds, figs and tofu are an option.
  • B12 vitamin. It is an essential nutrient, which is not produced by the body, so people must obtain this nutrient from their diet, and it is not found naturally in plant foods.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids. Vegetarians may have lower concentrations of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) than non-vegetarians. They are essential nutrients and important in cardiovascular health and the nervous system.
  • Zinc. It is essential for the immune system. It is also found in legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains, but its bioavailability is lower due to the presence of phytates, so it is important to cover it in a planned manner or include supplementation.