Vegetarian Diets and Their Effect in Exercise – Essay Example

The paper "Vegetarian Diets and Their Effect in Exercise" is an outstanding example of an essay on medical science. The vegetarian diet refers to the consumption of vegetables on a daily basis with no meat or dairy source. According to statistical data, nearly 4 percent of Canadian adults and 2.5% of American adults have vegetarian diets (Clark, 2004). A vegetarian diet can constitute different types of fruits and vegetables, hence vegans with slight differences in their diets can have different strengths or endurance potentials in terms of physical exercise (Forbes-Ewan, 2002). Vegans, people who are on a consistent vegetarian diet, typically have lower levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and are less prone to incur health problems such as cardiac issues, which usually arise from the intake of saturated animal fat and high cholesterol, and cancer (Appleby, 1999). Some of the benefits of having a vegetarian diet include lower mortality due to fewer cardiac problems, greater health benefits, and a reduced risk of several health issues such as hypertension and obesity (Appleby, 1999). Furthermore, vegetable intake is considered beneficial because of the high content of antioxidants, dietary fiber, phytochemicals, and folic acid in most vegetables (Nieman, 1999; Clark, 2004). From a nutritional perspective, people who are on a vegetarian diet have access to all the nutrients necessary for a healthy lifestyle because fruits and vegetables, components of a vegetarian diet, contain all nutrients in sufficient amounts; this means that the quantities are sufficient for a person if he or she is involved in most kinds of physical exercise or strength training (Forbes-Ewan, 2002). In fact, some studies even indicate that a vegetarian diet may be more nutritional than a non-vegetarian diet, with the exception of certain nutritional deficiencies, like in the case of zinc and iron (Forbes-Ewan, 2002).
According to research, having a vegetarian diet does not have a harmful impact, or a very beneficial one, on a person’s health or fitness potential, especially when the content of carbohydrates ingested is controlled. While some studies suggest that intake of solely vegetables can lead to a deficiency of nutrients such as zinc, iron, and trace elements, most studies counter this argument; they state that a vegetarian diet does not necessarily cause people to face a deficiency of nutrients and hence become physically unfit and incapable of exercising well (Nieman, 1999). In fact, a few studies have implied that a vegetarian diet enables athletes to perform like they would if they were on a different diet that incorporated all types of food since it fulfills their nutrition requirements optimally (Clark, 2004). A study conducted in 1985 showed that the running performance of people who are on a vegetarian diet is comparable to those of people on a non-vegetarian diet (Williams, 1976). The high fiber and carbohydrate content of vegetables ensures that vegans can usually exercise for prolonged time periods; the antioxidants present in fruits and vegetables also aids in decreasing the oxidative stress experienced by people during exertion, thereby helping them perform better (Nieman, 1999).
Despite studies showing that the sole intake of fruits and vegetables does not impact a person negatively when it comes to physical exertion, there exist several differences between vegans and non-vegans which depict how the heath or general well-being of a vegan is different from that of a vegan. In terms of physical fitness and appearance of vegans, however, it appears that these people often have lower stature, body mass index (BMI), and body weight, a lower stamina in some cases (especially among adults), and their heart rate lowers at a slightly slower pace than that of people with a non-vegetarian food intake following the step test (Forbes-Ewan, 2002). Eating too many vegetables alone can also result in problems such as acute appendicitis, leading to a greater incidence of appendectomies performed (Appleby et al., 1999). Regardless, people on a vegetarian diet have better endurance than those on a non-vegetarian diet (Forbes-Ewan, 2002). Athletes, who are generally required to exert themselves physically more often than other people, must eat carbohydrates in greater amounts to increase their glycogen stores, which are utilized during exercise if they want to improve their endurance (Nieman, 1995).
In order for vegans to perform even better, they must take supplement their vegetarian diet with certain nutrients that are deficient in vegetables and fruits. These nutrients include iron, zinc, vitamin B12, and calcium, which can be obtained by eating controlled amounts of soymilk, yogurt, broccoli, eggs, milk, fortified cereals, almonds and oatmeal (Clark, 2004). Ideally, these nutrients should be ingested at regular intervals throughout the day so that they can be efficiently absorbed (Clark, 2004). This is because of people an omnivorous diet, or a partially omnivorous diet provides nutrients such as fat-soluble vitamins and minerals, which, if absent, can lead to under-nutrition even if there is no apparently drastic impact on physical exercise (Forbes-Ewan, 2002). If a vegetarian diet is well-planned and relatively balanced, vegans can reap several benefits from them, as mentioned earlier. Hence if people can ensure that they take these extra food items to supplement their vegetarian diets, they can benefit from greater overall nutrition and physical strength.