Should I go vegetarian?
Eat vegetarian or vegan: meat, no thanks
Who is a vegetarian diet suitable for?
A diet without meat is basically feasible for everyone, as long as milk and dairy products are also consumed. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should, however, pay particular attention to the supply of vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids and supplement these with supplements after consultation with the doctor in charge. This also applies to folic acid, iodine and possibly iron. The supply of iron can be critical because the nutrient from plant foods is not as easily absorbed as it is from meat. Because children have a high need for nutrients as they grow, special care must be taken when choosing foods.
A vegan diet, i.e. a menu entirely without animal products, requires knowledge of nutrients and requirements and a good composition of plant-based foods. Without animal foods, important suppliers of some vitamins and minerals are missing in the menu. This is especially true for vitamin B12, vitamin B2 and calcium. In addition, important protein building blocks (amino acids) may be missing, as they are not found in every vegetable protein source. An adequate supply can only be achieved by combining different foods, such as cereals with pulses.
Vegans are also a risk group for iodine deficiency. The consumption of iodized table salt is recommended. You should also pay attention to the selenium intake. For example, Brazil nuts contain a lot of selenium.
A vegan diet therefore requires a very good knowledge of food and nutrition as well as a certain amount of creativity and preparation skills that go beyond cooking pasta and a sauce. Nutritional supplements are usually required, especially those containing vitamin B12.
Who is a vegan diet suitable for?
In healthy adults, there is nothing wrong with a vegan diet if the food choices and combinations are right. It makes sense to have yourself examined by your family doctor at regular intervals (once a year) and to compensate for a possible deficit in certain nutrients with supplements.
A vegan diet for pregnant or breastfeeding women as well as for infants, toddlers and children is controversial. In order to avoid health risks in these groups, the German Nutrition Society (DGE) clearly advises against it. A vegan diet also requires special care in older people in order to avoid deficiencies. The consumer advice centers share these recommendations.
Special products for the vegetarian or vegan diet
As with all industrially produced foods, it is advisable to take a look at the list of ingredients.
The market for special vegetarian and vegan products is booming. “Vegetarian cordon bleu”, “vegan liver sausage” and “vegetarian salami”, egg-free biscuit rolls or imitation cheese, tofu, tempeh and lupino are examples of this.
The designation of vegan and vegetarian meat substitute products was specified on December 20, 2018 in the guiding principles for vegan and vegetarian foods with similarities to foods of animal origin. According to the guiding principles, in the main field of vision, the indication vegan or vegetarian or through synonymous word and image marks should clearly and legibly indicate the vegan or vegetarian character. The substitute ingredient should also be named, such as pea protein or soy-based. The overall presentation should not be confused with a meat product. More information can be found here.
In many supermarkets, entire shelves or refrigerated counters are filled with vegetarian and vegan products. According to the trade, this segment has grown by 30 percent annually since 2008.
Not all products that are offered for a vegetarian or vegan diet are really recommendable or healthier. As with all industrially produced foods, it is advisable to take a look at the list of ingredients. Isolated soy or wheat protein or isolated starch are often used in production. These are highly processed foods - such as finished products with ingredients of animal origin - not infrequently with flavor enhancers and aromas and sometimes very high salt contents. Even the fat content does not always correspond to the principles of a balanced diet.
While soy drink, tofu and tempeh are still considered to be slightly processed, soy schnitzel, seitan, products based on milk (for example "Valess") or mushroom protein (for example "Quorn") are heavily processed and therefore less recommendable. You should also take a closer look at the wide range of sausage, meat and egg substitutes and observe the lists of ingredients.
Seal and label for vegetarian / vegan food
The list of ingredients alone is not always a reliable aid when choosing vegetarian or vegan foods. Many manufacturers provide their products with their own labels, although it is often unclear which form of vegetarianism the statements refer to. Some manufacturers offer more information on their websites; others do not have any additional explanations about the use of certain ingredients. The label "V" of the European Vegetarian Union offers concrete guidance.
The V-Label was developed by the European Vegetarian Union (EVU). The EVU is an umbrella organization for vegetarian associations and groups in Europe. It is an internationally protected trademark for labeling vegetarian and vegan foods. The label is intended to enable vegetarian and purely plant-based (vegan) products to be identified quickly and clearly on food packaging and menus.
The products awarded the label are divided into four groups according to their ingredients:
- ovo-lacto-vegetarian (with milk and eggs)
- ovo-vegetarian (with eggs, without dairy products)
- lacto-vegetarian (with dairy products, without eggs)
- vegan (without any animal products)
Any product marked with the European V-Label must not contain any of the following ingredients or processing aids:
- Animal meat (meat, poultry, fish, seafood)
- Ingredients made from meat or bones (in soups, sauces or preparations)
- Animal fats (exception: butter fat), frying fats or margarine that contain fish oil or similar products, for example in cakes, casseroles, pasta, for baking and roasting, for greasing baking trays and tins or for any other use
- Gelatine, aspic, gelling agents of animal origin
- Royal jelly (special bee product)
- other products that contain ingredients from slaughterhouse waste
The European collective mark "V" is valid in almost all European countries
Honey is allowed in products with the V-Label, but not for items that are declared as "vegan" or "purely vegetable". The label may not be used, among other things, for cheese made with calf rennet and fruit juices that have been clarified with gelatine. Products with caged eggs and genetically modified products are fundamentally excluded.
The label can also be found in the catering sector. The same guidelines apply to the ingredients in the menus that are marked with the label by certified restaurants as to products in stores. The European collective mark "V" is valid in almost all European countries and is also used outside of Europe, for example in the USA and Canada.
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