The term “vegetarian food” implies the food which includes vegetables, fruits, grains and cereals, milk and milk products.
A person who does not eat meat for religious, social or health reasons is a “vegetarian”. A pure “vegetarian” does not consume any kind of meat. Some vegetarians do take fish but avoid any other meat.
To eat something is an individual decision, but there are many advantages of vegetarian food over non-vegetarian food. Considering these advantages, many ancient sects and religions had linked “vegetarianism” to religion and prohibited use of meat. Currently the health hazards of eating meat products have been proved scientifically and vegetarianism is being promoted.
Salad bars are much in vogue in the West, where people go to take salads as snacks.
Vegetarian food has high fiber content and is easily digested. It is more suitable for the digestive system of man. Green vegetables and fresh fruits provide fiber and stimulate digestion. Citrus fruits provide fiber as well as vitamin C which helps in improving the resistance of the body against infections.
Guavas are rich in Vitamin C. Papaya has digestive enzymes and stimulates the process of digestion. One taking these fruits regularly would never suffer from constipation and related problems. Thus intestinal obstruction and colon cancer are also prevented because they are sequel to chronic constipation.
All the necessary nutrients can be obtained easily from vegetarian food. Green leafy vegetables provide fiber, iron and vitamins, particularly A. Bananas are considered as whole food for children. They supply calories and also other nutrients and potassium.
Grains like wheat supply vitamins B complex and E along with fiber. All types of beans like French beans, country beans, soya beans, etc. have much proteins. Pumpkin and beet root are very good source of iron. Locally available passion fruit is rich in iron. The list is endless.
Meat and meat products have a high cholesterol and lipid content, which is bad for the heart.
Eggs are high in protein but also have very high cholesterol content. It is therefore advised to avoid eggs or take only maybe once in a week or fortnight. Other meat products, except fish are also very high in cholesterol and lipids. They contribute to obesity, heart diseases and diabetes.
Gout a painful condition of joints is seen more in meat eaters, particularly those taking red meat.
Eating red meat and poultry meat like chicken puts load on the urinary system and is a risk factor for stones of the kidney and urinary system. Red and processed meat have been considered as risk factors for cancer of the colon.
Many people argue that why does not a vegetarian avoid milk as that also comes from an animal, i.e. cow. Milk is provided by nature to sustain all living beings in their growing years.
When the human mother weans the child from breast, it is the milk of cow, goat or buffalo that helps the child to sustain and grow. Even adults obtain nourishment from it. But no animal is killed for that purpose. Whereas any non vegetarian food can be obtained only if an animal dies or is killed. Therefore milk is by all means a vegetarian food. Milk and milk products supply various nutrients to body like calcium, fat and digestive proteins.
From hygiene point of view also, vegetable products are superior. Raw or undercooked meat can lead to many dangerous diseases like toxoplasmosis, tape worm infestation, neurocysticercosis (tape worm infestation of brain), botulinism, etc. Also consuming the meat of some sick animal can make one sick.
I have come across arguments that meat is necessary to provide energy. One has to look out and observe in nature. Heavy but energetic animals like elephants are pure vegetarians. Lean and swift animals like giraffes and horses do not eat meat or meat products. One of the swiftest tiny creatures — a rabbit — also consumes carrots and cabbage, but no meat. The disadvantages of meat are more than the nutrition it provides.
If while eating meat, a person imagines the ingredients he is eating, he will think of flesh, blood and bone, which is not a very pleasant idea for food. No such ethical problem ever arises with vegetarian food.
It is not necessary to stop taking meat altogether, if one is fond of it. But for obtaining good health and maintaining it, it is advisable to reduce intake of meat and meat products and supplement it by vegetables and other vegetarian products.