Vegetarianism: Good or Evil?

Vegetarianism: Good or Evil?
Vegetarianism: Good or Evil?

Has your neighbor become a vegetarian? Are you thinking of becoming one yourself? Is vegetarianism really harmful or beneficial? What is the role of the individual characteristics of the organism in the transition to a particular type of nutrition? What should be considered when choosing a diet? Let's try to figure it out.


According to the VITA Animal Rights Center, the majority of the Russian population eats traditionally. We conducted a small survey (in St. Petersburg) and found out that most often people do not become vegetarians because they cannot live without meat and love meat dishes, sit on protein diets, believe that in order to become a vegetarian, you need some For good reason, many believe that meat is essential because it contains essential amino acids. Few have considered becoming a vegetarian because, in their opinion, such a diet is healthier for the body. Vegetarians themselves, when asked about the motives that prompted them to switch to this type of diet, answer that they consider such food to be healthier, many of them like Indian culture and cuisine, or they are very fond of animals. Is Meat-Free Eating Really Good? To answer this difficult question - first, let's define the concepts.

Vegetarianism is a way of life, a food system in which meat and other animal products are completely or partially excluded from the diet. There are many "vegetarians". One of the strictest is veganism, which completely excludes all types of meat from animals, birds, fish, seafood, as well as eggs, milk and dairy products, and in some cases even honey.

Lacto-vegetarianism is a dairy-vegetable vegetarianism. Adherents of this trend consume milk and various dairy products. Lacto-ovegetarianism is a dairy-egg-vegetable vegetarianism; along with plant foods, such vegetarians consume dairy products and eggs from poultry.

Pescetarianism is a diet in which the meat of warm-blooded animals is not consumed, but the use of fish and seafood is allowed. A raw food diet is a diet where the use of any food that has been cooked is completely excluded.

After conducting a survey, we found out that lacto-ovo vegetarians and pescetarians are most often found in St. Petersburg. As the respondents themselves admit, in the climate of the Northern capital "you cannot live without meat." However, the source of protein is usually compensated by vegetarians through the consumption of various types of legumes, nuts or fish.

The generally recognized disadvantages of a vegetarian diet are: a deficiency of certain amino acids necessary for the growth and development of children, insufficient supply of the body with vitamins D and B12 contained in animal products, a lack of vitamin B2 (in case of refusing dairy products), a low content of vitamin C (when used mainly cereal rations), insufficient supply of the body with iron (when refusing meat), calcium, zinc and iodine.

“Vegetarianism is more suitable for elderly people and is highly undesirable for children,” says Alla Pogozheva, Doctor of Medical Sciences, Professor, Leading Researcher at the Federal State Budgetary Institution Research Institute of Nutrition of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences of Moscow. - From the same point of view, the vegetarian type of diet is not recommended for pregnant and lactating women, sick and weakened people.Elderly people are more suitable not for strict vegetarianism, but for diets with a vegetarian orientation, based on ovolacto-vegetarianism with periodic (2-3 times a week) inclusion of fish and seafood in the diet. In general, vegetarians are less likely to suffer from coronary heart disease, atherosclerosis, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and some types of cancer. The advantages of plant foods are the presence of phytoncides and a high content of dietary fiber, which contribute to the elimination of cholesterol and glucose from the body, prevent atherosclerosis, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, cancer, constipation, and provide a feeling of satiety. In such food there is no cholesterol, animal fat, it contains a little saturated and a lot of polyunsaturated fatty acids; significant content of potassium, magnesium and low sodium content. At the same time, plant food contains an insufficient content of many nutrients necessary for the normal development of children and adolescents. Studies have shown that children on a vegetarian diet develop more slowly physically, they are more likely to have anemia, rickets, and they are shorter than peers who consume a mixed diet. It was also noted that vegetarianism can negatively affect the menstrual cycle in girls and women, including those in the premenopausal period.


Bogdan Kislyakov, nutrition and weight correction consultant, project manager for healthy nutrition of the so-called "support groups" in St. Petersburg, adheres to the rule of the golden mean: “If a vegetarian consumes the right amount of fats, proteins and carbohydrates, as well as vitamins, then there should be no consequences. Plant foods have everything you need, the only problem is protein, but it is also present in legumes, for example. Adequate replacement of animal products is possible with herbal products and with the help of food additives. In this case, a person knows how many calories and nutrients (nutrients that are contained in food and provide the body with energy and plastic materials necessary for its functioning - ed.). Supplements are easy to use and store unlike plant foods. By the way, as has been proven by some studies, for example, by the pharmaceutical company Geigy and the German nutrition laboratory in Karlsruhe, the lack of vitamins in vegetables and fruits today is 60 to 90%. Hence - the lack of vitamins for our body. It is also worth noting that vegetables and fruits are less commonly consumed in winter. To eat right, you need to take into account the rate of proteins, fats, correct carbohydrates, vitamins and fiber. It is very important to drink enough fluids and try to eat fractionally."

“We are not doing a special study of vegetarianism,” says the head of the Laboratory of Nutritional Physiology at the Institute of Physiology. I.P. Pavlova RAS, doctor of biological sciences Andrey Gruzdkov. - But, based on the fundamental research of the founder of our laboratory, Academician Alexander Ugolev, the creator of the theory of adequate nutrition, we can share some thoughts about diets.

According to Andrey Gruzdkov, it is important not only to introduce essential nutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, fats, etc.) into the body, but also to effectively assimilate them - assimilation. Since ordinary food is represented mainly by biopolymers, in the gastrointestinal tract, under the action of various enzymes, they are broken down into monomers, which are then absorbed in the intestine and enter the internal environment of the body. The smell of food and its appearance greatly affect the preparation of the body for its assimilation. If food intake causes negative emotions, then such food is absorbed worse.

When choosing a specific food, each person should know their capabilities and take into account their state of health. In this case, the most important role is played by the individual characteristics of the organism. And, of course, the body must receive essential amino acids, which, as a rule, are not found in plant foods, or they are contained in it in insufficient quantities.

Andrei Gruzdkov also emphasizes: “Ugolev often said that centuries-old traditions, often conditioned by the geographical features of the area, play an important role in nutrition. For example, in the North, people adapt to one food, and in the Caucasus, to another. In some African countries, where there were no traditions of dairy farming, a larger (than, for example, in European countries) percentage of the adult population suffers from milk intolerance, since during the period of a person's transition from breastfeeding to regular food, the lactase enzyme that breaks down contained in milk is repressed milk sugar - lactose ".


And now about the generally accepted. For a long time, the most common theory was a balanced diet. It was formed at the end of the 19th - beginning of the 20th century on the basis of ideas that took shape more than two hundred years ago. Academician Alexei Pokrovsky and his students made a significant contribution to its modern development. According to this theory, a healthy diet, first of all, should be balanced, that is, one in which all the substances necessary to ensure its energy expenditures, renewal of tissues and regulation of physiological processes enter the body in sufficient quantities and in certain proportions.

As you know, the penetration of nutrients into the blood occurs after hydrolytic cleavage in the gastrointestinal tract of initially polymeric food structures under the action of appropriate enzymes and absorption of hydrolysis products (mainly in the form of monomers).

The food contains various components: useful substances (carbohydrates, fats, proteins, minerals, vitamins, amino acids, water), ballast components (dietary fiber, for example, pectin, cellulose, fiber) and toxic substances (harmful to humans). According to the theory of balanced nutrition, the value of a food product is determined by the amount and ratio of beneficial nutrients it contains. Since dietary fiber is not degraded by enzymes in the stomach, pancreas, and small intestine, it was generally accepted as ballast, which is better to get rid of (for example, by refining the original food).

In recent decades, the theory of adequate nutrition, created by academician Alexander Ugolev, has developed, which, while maintaining the basic postulates of the theory of balanced nutrition, has made very significant adjustments to our ideas about what healthy food should be.

So, according to the theory of adequate nutrition, the optimal diet must take into account the presence of intestinal bacterial flora in the body and its important role in the digestive process.

In particular, in his theory, Ugolev took into account the fact that the so-called ballast substances (dietary fiber, fiber), which were previously considered useless, since they are not decomposed by digestive enzymes, are at the same time food for the microflora of our intestines. At the same time, the bacteria inhabiting the large intestine, using these "ballast" substances, produce useful products from them - some essential amino acids, vitamins. Consequently, the previously widely used refining of food products cannot be recognized as a factor that improves their quality.


The postulate about the functions of nutrition remains in common with the theory of balanced nutrition: maintaining the molecular composition of the body, meeting its plastic and energy needs.But an important addition has appeared: nutrition should not only comply with the principle of balance, but also the principle of adequacy, that is, it should correspond to the peculiarities of the digestive system of mammals that have developed in the course of evolution.

Thus, in a comprehensive approach to the choice of a diet, one should take into account one's individual physiological characteristics, state of health, established eating habits, love for familiar dishes and national cuisine. It makes sense to find something that makes you feel great and healthy.

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