Crash Course on Vegetarianism

In this video, we will provide a crash course on vegetarianism.
Crash Course on Vegetarianism - Videos


We discuss the different types of vegetarian diets, explore important nutritional factors vegetarians need, as well as explain key health benefits the diet provides as promoted by the USDA 2015-2020 guidelines.

Who is this for?

Those interested in learning about vegetarianism.

What will you learn?

You will learn about the different types of vegetarian diets, the key nutrients factors as well as the key health benefits of vegetarian diets as promoted by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines.


Emily Rodriguez

View Transcript

(rolling and crashing)


- [Instructor] Hello, everyone.

My name is Emily Rodriguez, and I'm with PennState Extension, and welcome to this crash course on vegetarianism.

This video will focus on informing the public of the vegetarian diet, exploring important nutritional factors vegetarian need, and explaining key health benefits the diet provides as promoted by the USDA dietary guidelines.

Although many may know what a vegetarian diet is, many do not know the actual definition.

The vegetarian society states a vegetarian is someone who lives on a diet of grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruit with or without the use of dairy products and eggs.

A vegetarian does not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish or byproducts of slaughter.

Although this is a very general definition, there are subgroups of a vegetarian.

These vegetarian groups are described by the foods of animal origin that they do include in their diets while excluding meat, fish, and fowl, so let's take a closer look at these subgroups A lacto-ovo vegetarian includes eggs and dairy products in their diet.

This diet can be subdivided by vegetarians who choose to only include eggs, which are called an ovo vegetarian, and others who may choose to only include dairy in their diet, which would mean they are a lacto-vegetarian.

The 2015, 2020 USDA dietary guidelines recently recognized the lacto-ovo vegetarian diet as a healthy eating pattern and has shifted their recommendations based off of the results from the national health and nutrition examination survey.

Another subgroup of vegetarianism is called vegan.

Vegans are vegetarians who abstain from eating or using all animal products.

Products that are usually avoided include dairy, cheese, eggs, and honey, as well as wool, silk and leather, which are products that are made and taken from animals.

A raw vegan follows the same diet as a vegan but consumes most foods uncooked.

The percentage of food consumed raw can vary between 75 to 100%.

The idea behind this diet is that cooking food can destroy many of its nutrients and does not allow one to retrieve all of the health benefits.

This diet can be controversial to some when you look at food safety, but more research should be done weighing the risks versus the benefits of this way of eating.

Vegetarianism dates all the way back to 12,000 BC, and even today, there are still many misconceptions concerning the adequacy of this diet.

A primary misconception is that the vegetarian diet is too restrictive and does not allow for proper nutrition.

According to the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including vegan diets, are helpful, meaning they are nutritionally adequate and may even provide health benefits for the prevention of certain diseases.

In the next few slides, I will discuss how the vegetarian diet can be nutritionally adequate.

Because the vegetarian diet excludes animal meat as a protein source, it is sometimes hard to think of how one can get protein into the diet.

Before we discuss non-animal protein sources, I would first like to describe what a protein is and what makes a food a complete or incomplete protein.

Proteins are known as the building blocks of life.

They are in every cell of our bodies, and they help with growth development at all stages by repairing and generating new cells.

Their basic structure is composed of a chain of organic compounds known as amino acids.

These amino acids form together to build chains that make up a protein.

Our body can make some amino acids, which are called nonessential, but some amino acids our bodies cannot make, and we must get these essential amino acids from food.

There are nine amino acids that our bodies need, and they are as follows: Histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.

Because most proteins sources from animals have all the nine essential amino acids, animal products are considered a complete protein.

These include poultry, beef, pork, fish, and dairy.

Non-animal complete protein sources include quinoa and soy.

Non-animal sources of protein from legumes, nuts, seeds, grains, and vegetables lack one or more of the essential amino acids, which is why they're called incomplete proteins.

Because of these terms, complete and incomplete, common misconceptions lead to the belief that the vegetarian diet does not contain adequate amounts of complete proteins, but vegetarians have become very versed in finding non-animal protein sources in today's retail market.

Although these proteins sources are not complete in nature, simply varying food items, such as beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, tofu, peas and grains, throughout the day will allow one to receive all the essential amino acids needed to keep a healthy and strong body.

An example of how vegetarians vary and complete the proteins in their diet is by having peanut butter toast for breakfast and edamame vegetable stir fry for dinner.

General recommendations from the USDA dietary guidelines for 2015, 2020 state that vegetarians should be consuming 3.5 ounces of protein per day based on a 2000-calorie diet.

Another misconception is that vegetarians consume an inadequate amount of calcium.

For many lacto-ovo vegetarians, it is easy to meet or exceed the recommended daily allowance, otherwise known as the RDA, for calcium because they have made the choice to add dairy products into their diet.

As for vegans, it is not always as easy to meet this requirement.

The recommended dietary allowance for adults are as follows: Men 19 to 70 years of age should consume 1000 milligrams of calcium per day, while men 71 years of age or older should consume around 1200 milligrams.

Women between the ages of 19 and 50 should consume 1000 milligrams, while women 51 years of age or older should consume 1200 milligrams of calcium.

Although many green leafy vegetables, including spinach, beet greens, and Swiss chard, are high in calcium, they also have oxalates, which do not make the calcium readily available in the body.

Oxalates are natural forming substances that support healthy metabolism in plants, animals and humans but may have some negative effects.

Because oxalates bind to calcium, the calcium becomes unavailable for the body to use in your bones.

A good recommendation for those seeking to add nondairy calcium in their diet is to consume low-oxalate vegetables, such as kale, turnip greens, and Chinese cabbage.

Also, good sources of calcium comparable to milk would be calcium fortified tofu and fortified plant-based milk alternatives.

With the addition of some of these foods to the vegan diet, one will be able to obtain enough calcium to meet recommendations.

A third important nutrient for vegetarians is vitamin B12.

B12, like other B vitamins, is used in protein metabolism.

It helps the body form red blood cells, and it plays a role in maintaining the central nervous system.

B12 is often a part of the vegetarian diet discussion because B12 is not naturally found in plant foods.

Daily allowances for this vitamin are as follows: Men and women over the age of 14 require 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B12, while pregnant and lactating women should receive 2.6 to 2.8 micrograms, respectively.

As for sources, lacto-ovo vegetarians meet the recommendations for B12 through the consumption of eggs and dairy, but those who follow a vegan diet may fall short in getting this important vitamin.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, choosing a variety of foods fortified with B12 can allow for this vitamin to be available in the body for use.

These foods include nondairy fortified milk alternatives, such as soy milk, fortified cereals, meat substitutes, and fortified nutritional yeast.

Remember to look at the nutrition label to see if fortified foods have been fortified with B12.

As stated in the beginning of this video, there are many reasons why someone would choose to become a vegetarian, but most recently, the USDA has begun to make shifts in their recommendations, which has people asking, "What are the benefits?" For heart disease, there has been an improvement in modifiable factors, such as abdominal obesity and blood pressure.

As for cancer, the vegetarian diet has been associated with lowering the overall risk of cancer, especially in those related to the gastrointestinal tract.

For type 2 diabetes, it was found at the Adventist Health Study that the odds of developing diabetes were reduced by 62% in people who followed a vegan diet and by 38% in those who followed a more flexibly vegetarian diet.

As we know, the vegetarian diet has been around for thousands of years and is a diet based in whole foods, fiber, vitamin, and minerals.

Vegetarianism has gained a large following around the world, and with its vast health benefits, many non-vegetarians are looking at this diet and adapting its practices.

Some tips for those following a vegetarian diet would include to vary your protein sources to attain a vast amount of essential amino acids, to eat a variety of low oxalate vegetables and calcium-fortified foods to reach RDA, and to consume foods fortified with B12, like soy milk and cereal.

Thank you for taking this crash course on vegetarianism with me, and I hope to have provided you with a vast amount of knowledge on vegetarianism.


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