A vegetarian diet is composed of different categories. One can go vegan, lacto-vegetarian, lacto-ovo-vegetarian, pescatarian, or flexitarian. Here are the differences between these categories of vegetarian diets:
• Vegan – consumes only plant-based foods and no animal-based foods
• Lacto-vegetarian – consumes only plant-based foods + milk/dairy-based foods
• Lacto-ovo-vegetarian – consumes only plant-based foods + milk/dairy-based foods + eggs
• Pescatarian – consumes only plant-based foods + fish (may or may not allow milk/dairy-based foods and eggs)
• Flexitarian or Semivegetarian – primarily consumes plant-based foods but may allow a variety of meats from time to time.
To make it more simplified, we shall focus on the lacto-ovo vegetarian type as our reference. In this article, we shall look into the advantages and disadvantages of being on a vegetarian diet.
The Advantages of Eating Vegetarian:
The nutritional contents of vegetables vary significantly, but some have more potassium or phosphorus than others. One main advantage of vegetables over animal-based foods is the protein content. Though not all plants have protein, vegetable-based protein is also as complete as that found in animal protein when combined. Once an individual goes vegetarian, the possibility of lowering protein intake is almost always there. He can choose from a wide range of vegetables without taking in much protein. However, if the diet is incorporated with protein according to the nutritional requirement, a vegetarian can always choose from a variety of meat analogs (plant-based protein foods). The addition of milk and dairy almost always lead to the necessary intake of protein, although they can be high in phosphorus and must be carefully watched.
The low protein content of most plant-based foods can decrease the so-called “proteinuria” or protein in the urine. This in turn benefits the kidneys by reducing their load to remove the waste products of protein.
Vegetarians can also enjoy the benefits of lipid profile improvement of the blood, as well as less kidney tissue damage and reduced growth of kidney cysts through the improvement in the diet as long as too many calories are not consumed.
You should also note that the nutritional needs of the renal patient can be fulfilled without any compromises as part of a vegetarian diet. Kidney disease is also known to slow down its progression in response to a vegetarian diet. This is due to the benefits of lowering the protein intake from consuming vegetables or plant-based foods as already mentioned.
The Disadvantages of Eating A Vegetarian Renal Diet:
As in all diet plans, there are always disadvantages. A catch 22 of the diet is that the lower protein can be a problem as well as a solution. This becomes a downside when dialysis is required for the renal patient. Renal patients requiring dialysis are expected to take in more protein to replace the losses from the dialysis.
Analog meat products can sometimes contain high amount of sodium, and so does cheese. Canned vegetables can also contain higher amounts of sodium that can likewise damage the kidneys and raise blood pressure. All renal patients should be cautious of the nutritional values of what he or she consumes, but it is especially important based on the need to consume the right amount of protein without eating too much potassium or sodium.
Okay or Not To Eat A Vegetarian Renal Diet?
In summary, the only pitfall that can hinder a renal patient is when the nutritional requirement is not met for protein and calories. Besides the fact that vegetarian diets are healthy, the only consideration is to be watchful on the other nutrients that could not be provided by certain plant-based foods. Earlier, we discussed how nutritious vegetables are, but not all of these plant sources contain each of the nutrients a renal patient needs and must be carefully reviewed for completeness in the diet.
In order to achieve the full potential of a vegetarian diet, you should be cautious about the nutritional values of each plant-based food in your diet. Eating a vegetarian renal diet is very worthy as long as you combine a variety of plant food sources in balance. If supplementation should be needed, consult your health professional about it. And on top of it all, make sure that your diet meets the daily recommended intake of nutrients as prescribed by your nutritionist.
Also published on Medium.