Vegetarian Diet: Varieties Of Vegetarians, Relationship With Diseases, Health Risks And Nutritional Pyramid

Currently, there are options for vegetarian restaurants and the culinary influence obtained from some cultures with vegetable-based diets.

People become vegetarians for health, religion, love of animals or the application of hormones and antibiotics to animals, or environmental reasons.

Some people adopt a mainly vegetarian diet since they can not eat meat due to illness or economic reasons.

Usually, research on the vegetarian diet focuses mainly on nutritional deficiencies.

Today, food that is based on vegetables is known as nutritionally sufficient and as one of the ways to reduce the risks of chronic diseases.

A diet based on soft drinks, pizza with cheese, and sweets, is vegetarian, but to maintain a good state of health, it is required to eat a good amount of different vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.

Trans and saturated fats should also be replaced by unsaturated fats, such as walnuts, olive oil, and canola oil. It is essential to control the portions and regularly perform physical activities.


Varieties of vegetarians

Vegetarian regimens exclude meat, poultry, or seafood. But there are people with different dietary patterns, which are included in that regime because of the large number of vegetables they consume, such as:

  • Vegans (100% vegetarian): Do not consume chicken, meat, fish, or any animal by-product, such as dairy products, eggs, and gelatin.
  • Lacto-Ovo vegetarians: They do not consume chicken, meat, or fish, but dairy products and eggs.
  • Lacto vegetarians: They do not consume fish, meat, eggs or chicken, but they do consume dairy products.
  • Ove vegetarians: They do not consume meat, fish, chicken or dairy products, but they consume eggs.
  • Partial vegetarians: They do not consume meat. However, they can eat fish or poultry from the pen.

Vegetarian diet and diseases

People who eat a complete diet and consume meat tend to consume less cholesterol and saturated fat.

More folic acid, magnesium, potassium, dietary fiber, vitamins E and C, and phytochemicals (plant chemicals), such as flavonoids and carotenoids.

As a result, the dietary regimen may have lower LDL, total cholesterol and blood pressure, and a lower body mass index (BMI).

As well as factors associated with longevity and lower risk for several chronic diseases.

  • Heart disease

There is a certainty that vegetarians have a lower risk of heart problems.

To protect the heart, whole grains with a high fiber content should be consumed for a vegetarian diet.

You should also eat legumes of slow digestion with a low glycemic index, which helps to preserve blood sugar levels, just as soluble fiber helps in reducing cholesterol levels.

Carbohydrates and starches such as potatoes, white rice, and white flour increase blood sugar, which increases the risk of heart attack and diabetes.

The consumption of walnuts protects the heart; they also have a low glycemic index and contain many antioxidants, fiber, minerals, vegetable proteins, and healthy fatty acids.

The disadvantage is that they contain many calories, so you should restrict your daily intake; due to the fat content, a small amount can satisfy the appetite.

And they are a source of omega-3 fatty acids.

  • Cancer

Eating lots of vegetables and fruits reduces the risk of developing cancer. There is a certainty that there is a lower occurrence of cancer in people who adopt a vegetarian diet.

If you do not consume red meat, you will exclude a risk factor in the case of colon cancer.

Vegetarians usually have little food intake that has been recognized as carcinogenic in the colon.

  • Type 2 diabetes

Research suggests that a preponderantly plant-based diet may decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes.

The risk that vegetarians have of developing diabetes is associated with the consumption of red meat, such as bacon and sausages, total caloric intake, and physical exercise.

Health risks

The concerns in vegetarian diets have focused on the following nutrients:

  • Protein

Lacto-Ovo vegetarians obtain the necessary daily protein, milk products, and eggs.

Vegans consume peas, beans, lentils, chickpeas, seeds, nuts, soy products, and whole grains (wheat, oats, barley, and brown rice) to meet protein needs.

  • Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is present only in products of animal origin, including dairy products and eggs.

If the regimen eliminates products of animal origin, you should eat foods fortified with vitamin B12, such as soy drinks, rice, and breakfast cereals fortified with vitamin B12.

It should also be supplemented by taking a supplement to avoid deficiency, which can cause neurological difficulties and pernicious anemia.

  • Iron

The iron found in meat (especially red meat) is more easily absorbed than in vegetables.

The absorption must be reinforced by vitamin C and other acids found in fruits and vegetables, but it can also be inhibited by phytic acid present in whole grains, seeds, beans, lentils, and nuts.

  • Zinc

Phytic acid present in seeds, whole grains, beans, and legumes also reduces zinc absorption.

  • Omega-3 fatty acids

Diets that do not include fish or eggs are low in eicosapentaenoic acid (AEP) and docosahexaenoic acid (ADH).

Vegans can obtain docosahexaenoic acid from seaweed supplements in fortified breakfast bars and soy milk.

Good sources include flaxseed, walnuts, canola oil, and soybeans.


To achieve an optimal transition to a vegetarian diet, it is necessary to gradually reduce the number of meats in the diet and increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables.

Nutritional pyramid

In the programming of the vegetarian diet, it is necessary to consider the vegetarian nutritional pyramid shown here, in its distribution by the food and levels, thus the amount that should be included in the daily diet.

  • The 1st level: It is related to the base where the cereals are located, such as Pasta, bread, and rice, which are the most significant portions (6 to 11 servings per day).
  • The 2nd level: Is divided into two parts; one half corresponds to vegetables and vegetables, and the other half to nuts and fruits. The dose of vegetables and greens is three or more per day, and the fruit serves two or more per day.
  • The 3rd level: Is also fragmented into two; one has foods with high calcium content, such as Tofu, sesame, spinach, soy milk, and almond milk, and the other corresponds to legumes. The ratio of calcium-rich foods of six to eight days and vegetables of two to three days.
  • The 4th level: This corresponds to fats, essential fatty acids, and foods enriched with vitamin B12, such as vegetable burgers, cereals, and vegetable margarine. The daily dose is 1 to 2 servings of fatty acids and vitamin B12.