To be or not to be a vegetarian
A strict vegetarian is a person who never in his life eats anything derived from animals. The main objection to vegetarianism on a long-term basis is the difficulty of getting enough protein-the body-building element in food. If you have ever been without meat or other animal foods for some days of weeks (say, for religious reasons) you will have noticed that you tend to get physically rather weak. You are glad when the fast is over and you get your reward of a succulent meat meal.
Proteins are built up from approximately twenty food elements called ‘amino-acids’, which are found more abundantly in animal protein than in vegetable protein. This means you have to eat a great deal more vegetable than animal food in order to get enough of these amino-acids. A great deal of the vegetable food goes to waste in this process and from the life-long vegetarianism.
The economic side of the question, though, must be considered. Vegetable food is much cheaper than animal food. However, since only a small proportion of the vegetable protein is useful for body-building purposes, a consistent vegetarian, if he is to gain the necessary 70 grams of protein a day, has to consume a greater bulk of food than his digestive organs can comfortably deal with. In fairness, though, it must be pointed out that vegetarians claim they need far less than 70 grams of protein a day.
Whether or not vegetarianism should be advocated for adult, it is definitely unsatisfactory for growing children, who need more protein than they can get from vegetable sources. A lacto-vegetarian diet, which includes milk and milk products such as cheese, can however, be satisfactory as long as enough milk and milk products are consumed.
Meat and cheese are the best sources of usable animal protein and next come milk, fish and eggs.
Slow and careful cooking of meat makes it more digestible and assists in the breaking down of the protein content by the body. When cooking vegetables, however, the vitamins, and in particular the water-soluble vitamin C, should not be lost through over-cooking.
With fruit, vitamin loss is negligible, because the cooking water is normally eaten along with the fruit, and acids in the fruit help to hold in the vitamin C.
Most nutrition experts today would recommend a balanced diet containing elements of all foods, largely because of our need for sufficient vitamins. Vitamins were first called ‘accessory food factors’ since it was discovered, in 1906, that most foods contain, besides arbohydrates, fats, minerals and water, these other substances necessary for health. The most common deficiencies in Western diets today are those of vitamins. The answer is variety in food. A well-balanced diet having sufficient amounts of milk, fruit, vegetables, eggs, and meat, fish or fowl (i.e. any good protein source) usually provides adequate minimum daily requirements of all the vitamins.