Do you think eliminating meat and egg from your diet could be detrimental for your health?

Many people become anxious for their health when hearing about vegetarianism. They immediately reject vegetarian food believing that it lacks enough nutriments and especially sufficient amounts of protein. This is particularly a sensitive issue for parents. Most parents believe if they don't feed their children with meat their health and growth will be seriously endangered.

Do you think a diet without several types of red and white meat as well as sea food and eggs lacks vital nutriments – especially proteins and endangers your health? Unfortunately, most arguments between supporters and opponents of vegetarianism lead to an opinionated and prejudiced discussions. Nowadays, dietetics has become a branch of science and with the aid of information and scientific procedures based on chemistry, biochemistry, and biology it leaves no space for non-scientific, opinionated, and prejudiced discussions.

From the viewpoint of dietetics, any nutriment is a compound which fulfills the requirements of the body and helps with the maintenance and growth of cells, regulation of biochemical processes, and procurement of energy. Human food must include 50 to 60 nutriments in order to fulfill these requirements. We can categorize these nutriments in six main categories:

1. Proteins
2. Carbohydrates
3. Fats
4. Minerals
5. Vitamins
6. Water

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Our bodies can function properly by merely consuming sufficient amounts of the nutriments mentioned above. The absence of one of these nutriments exposes the body to the risk of several diseases. The type of disease depends on the nutriment the body lacks.

In answer to the question whether a meat and egg free diet is detrimental for our health, it is important to briefly examine the above mentioned six classes of nutriments and their main vegetable sources. We shall compare where necessary the main sources from which these nutriments derive with those that are found in meat. Although in a healthy veggie diet there is no meat and egg, adequate amounts of milk and other dairy products must be consumed for the acquisition of proteins, amino acids, and other required compounds.

Proteins:

The basic element of all body cells is protein that is contained in the bones, muscles, blood, and enzymes. Therefore, a healthy diet must supply adequate amounts of protein for the maintenance, growth, and restoration of cells and many other biochemical mechanisms. In the process of digestion, proteins turn to simpler compounds called amino-acids. There are 18 types of amino acids which normally exist in a healthy diet. Alimentary proteins contain 16% nitrogen as their main element as well as carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and in some cases sulfur and iodine.
Plants and some bacteria can synthesize their proteins from ammonium salts. Many living creatures such as mammalians have to receive nitrogen in the form of amino acids. Mammalians are able to synthesize proteins from ammonium salts if certain amino acids called essential amino acids exist in their nutrition.

Milk and its products:

Important sources of proteins and essential amino acids.There are 8 essential amino acids for humans which are leucine, isoleucine, methionine, valine, threonine, phenylalanine, tryptophan, and lysine. If all essential amino acids exist in a diet as well as nitrogen and adequate amounts of other nutrimentS, the body will be able to synthesize all essential proteins and amino acids. The absence or shortage of essential amino acids for a while will interrupt the process of synthesis and the function of other proteins and amino acids. Such a shortage could gradually impair the process of synthesis and the proper function of other proteins and amino-acids in the body and lead to infirmity and disease. Hence, a full protein diet must include on the one hand sufficient amounts of protein for the metabolism of nitrogen, and on the other hand all essential amino acids for a complete synthesis of proteins.
The following table compares some of the main animal and vegetable sources of protein. The amounts are according to grams of protein per hundred grams of nutriment.

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As you can see, a meat and egg free diet is not deficient in proteins. In fact, in many cases there are higher amounts of proteins in vegetable nutriments and dairy products.

Grains and cereals

Important sources of proteins amino acids It is important to mention that some vegetable proteins lack essential amino acids while some on the contrary have adequate amounts of them. A vegetarian diet enriched with milk, cheese and other types of dairy products will have no shortage of proteins and essential amino acids.
The following table shows the amount of essential amino acids in meat, eggs, milk, and some vegetable protein sources. It has to be mentioned that this table only includes milk among dairy products whereas cheese and dried whey (kashk) contain much higher amounts of proteins and essential amino acids. The amounts of essential amino acids are according to grams per one gram of nitrogen in nutriments.

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As illustrated by the above table, eliminating different types of meat, fish, and eggs does not result in a shortage of essential amino acids. In almost all cased, there are greater amounts of essential amino acids in vegetable proteins, milk, and dairy products.
It is important to note far from leading to better health and growth, excessive consumption of can cause disease as high amounts of nitrogen could transform to urea and uric acid which are harmful. An adequate intake of carbohydrates and fats is required for the body to use proteins in the best way and with utmost efficiency. The adequate amount of proteins varies according to life condition, geographic condition, age, and job. Average amount of proteins for a 70 kg adult is about 65 grams per day. Each gram of extra protein turns to 4 calories of energy, urea and uric acid in the body.

Carbohydrates:

Carbohydrates which supply sufficient energy for the heat, movement, and several activities of the body, proviiVe half the body's calories. Each gram of carbohydrate turns to 4 calories of energy; for instance, a person aged between 25 and 30, weighing 70 kg and 178 cm tall, needs 2800 calories per day, half of which must be provided by 350 grams of digestible carbohydrates. The required energy for humans differs from 900 to 3900 calories per day according to gender, height, weight, and age.
The main sources of carbohydrates are grains (55%), sugar (25%), vegetables (5%), and milk and dairy products (5%). These nutriments supply carbohydrates as well as minerals and vitamins. But refined carbohydrates such as white sugar, husked rice, and corn starch are almost pure carbohydrates which merely provide energy.

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Carbohydrates are significant from several aspects and their existence is a healthy diet.
They Improve the smell and taste of food. Some types of carbohydrates help in the growth of special types of micro-organisms in the intestine which help in better food digestion. Some carbohydrates such as cellulose are excreted unchangeably from the body and facilitate excretion. In addition, the body needs carbohydrates for better consumption of fats. Inadequate amounts of carbohydrates in a diet disrupts one of the basic mechanisms of the metabolism which is the oxidation of fatty acids.
The above explanation clearly shows that in terms of provision of carbohydrates that play a vital role in a healthy diet, a meat and egg free diet is both complete and free from any deficiency.

Fats:

Fats and oils are the main sources of nutritional energy. Each gram of fat or oil turns to 9 calories of energy. Ordinarily, fats supply 40 to 50% of nutritional calories to the body. Dieticians believe that consuming too much fat and oil must be avoided and suggest that an adult of 70 kg weight should not consume more than 700 calories of fat per day—65 grams of fat and oil.
In addition to supplying needed energy to the body, fats are important for their dissolving quality and the vitamins that they contain. Therefore, some fatty acids in vegetables are among necessary nutritional elements for the body. For instance, arachidonic and linoleic acids are essential for the growth of the body and healthy skin.
The main sources of fat and oil are liquid or solid vegetable oils, olive oil, buffer, margarine, walnut, and different types of almonds, crême, cheese, and chocolate. Of course, eggs and fat of meat are also considered as sources of fat.

Simplicity and compassion in our food choices and lifestyle have an impact on our health, happiness, joy, family, society and the entire planet.


Minerals:

Minerals exist as compounds and complexes of carbohydrates, organic acids, and proteins in the body of all living creatures. They are essential for bone and tooth structure.
The minerals that are needed in high amounts by the body are calcium, chlorine, magnesium, potassium, sodium, phosphorus, and sulfur. The minerals which are needed in lower amounts are cobalt, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, selenium, and zinc. In addition, several studies reveal that chromium, fluorine, and molybdenite also play a major role in the metabolism of the body.
The main sources of minerals that are required by the body are milk, grains, vegetables, fruits, walnuts, and different types of nuts. Essential minerals exist in meat and eggs as well, but their main source is milk.

Spices

In addition to their pharmaccutical and therapeutic properties, spices add an extraordinary fragrance and taste to food.

Vitamins:

Vitamins are several organic compounds with completely different formulas whose small amounts are indispensable for healthy function and maximum proficiency of the body. Each vitamin has a particular role in the body. They must all enter the body through nutriments, since the body can not synthesize them by itself.
Vitamins are categorized into two classes: fat soluble vitamins (A, D, and E) and water soluble vitamins(C and B group). A vegetarian diet consisting of cereals, grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, and other dairy products contains all the necessary vitamins that are needed by the body. Some people believe that the source for group B of vitamins— especially B 12—is meat and mainly liver. This idea is completely erraneous. Non-meat sources for group B vitamins are: for vitamin B 1: milk, vegetable, and nuts; for vitamin B2: milk, cheese, and vegetables; for vitamin B3: grains, peanut, and its oil; for vitamin B4: cereals; for vitamin B5: milk and dairy products, grains and non-husked barley; for vitamin B6: potatoes and barley; vitamin B7 exists in many nutriments and can also be produced by the body; for vitamin B8: grains and nuts; for vitamin B9: milk, vegetables, and non-husked cereals; for vitamin B 12: milk and dairy products.

Water:

The main substance of the body cells is water which plays a great role in the digestion and absorption of food. It also transfers food stuff to the cells, excretes all unneeded stuff from the body and balances the body temperature. 60% of the body is made of water. Through the mechanism of thirst, the salt in the body is constantly kept to the consistency of 0.9%. In addition to water and other drinks, the body takes its water through consumption of cooked or raw food (fruits and vegetables) and oxidation of food.

Conclusion:

The concise study above reveals that a diet consisting of several types of cereals, grains, fruits, vegetables, milk, and dairy products is with regard to the science of nutrition and all the necessary nutriments that are needed by the body, a full and complete diet.
There are several hygienic and economical reasons to avoid eating meat. The more people become aware of their nature, the less they consume meat; and in many countries the number of vegetarians is increasing each year.

References:

1. Birch, C.G. Spencer, M. Cameron, A.G, Food Science, Pergamon Press (1972).
2.Jones, A., World Protein Resources, Medical and Technical Publishing Co Ltd. (1974).
3.Pennington, J.A.T., Church, H.N., Bowes and Church's Food Values of Proteins Commonly Used, 14th edition, J.B. Lippincolt Company (1985).
4.Hampel, C.A. Hawley, G.G., The Encyclopedia of Chemistry, Third edition, Van Nostrand Reinhold Company (1973).
5.Swaminathan, M., Handbook of Food and Nutrition, Bappco Publications (1982).
6.Terserkisian, N., Rabmanian, M., Azar, M., Miorian, H., Khalili, Sh., Table of Nutritional Compounds of Iran, 1st volume: Raw Nutriments, Institution of Dietetics and Food Industries of Iran Press, No. 131, Tehran (1385).
7.Rojhan, MS., Alimentotherapy (Meats, Proteins, fats, Carbohydrates), Khayyam Bookstore Publications.
8.Rojhan, M.S., Food and Remedy (Vegetables, Grains, Cereals, Mushrooms), Khayyam Bookstore Publications.
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