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Vegetarian diet safe for kids

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BY: Doreen Hammond
Some students of the Oasis International School at Teshie-Nungua in Accra eating fruits as part of their meals to stay healthy. Vegetarians eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. Picture: LYDIA ESSEL-MENSAH

A nutritionist, Ms Akosua Konadu Yiadom, has said that it is alright for children who are not babies to be vegetarians unless for clinical reasons.

“ And even with children, it should be done in consultation with a nutritionist and pediatrician so that, meals are carefully planned for the child with the right supplementation to prevent health challenges immediately or later”, she explained.

Vegetarians stay off animal flesh or protein and sometimes include their products.

In an interview in Accra to throw more light on the benefits and disadvantages of being a vegetarian, Ms Yiadom said vegetarianism increases lifespan because eating more vegetables and fruits resulted in a lesser  build up of toxins in the body and promotes longevity.

“ It also lowers cholesterol levels since  LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol which is bad is associated greatly with animal fat or saturated fat. Since the body produces cholesterol (healthy), vegetarians do not have to worry about the LDL cholesterol associated with what we eat.”

She said vegetarians were less likely to suffer strokes and  become obese since they were careful about what they ate.

“They play safe. They don’t overeat or are picky with foods. These two points will prevent obesity and adopting a vegetarian diet limits your chances of suffering a stroke due to how heart healthy vegetarian meals are”, she explained.

The nutritionist said vegetarians had a reduced  risk of becoming diabetic because their diets were lower in glycemic index (how fast what we eat is converted into sugar for the body to work with).

“A vegetarian diet is easy to be absorbed, is nutritious and contains less fatty acids. Vegetarians don’t experience extreme levels of blood sugar spike as compared to the non-vegetarians”.

She mentioned other benefits of being a vegetarian as having healthy skin, lower levels of depression, less likely to suffer constipation and having a better ability to digest food.

However, Ms Yiadom said some vegetarians developed certain health issues  such as deficiency in some nutrients giving examples of vitamin B12, calcium and vitamin D.

She said being a vegetarian also posed such challenges as a higher expenditure on food, depending on one’s location and a difficulty in finding suitable meals outside homes.

 “And it is difficult eating outside since most restaurants’ menus are geared towards meat lovers.

Your meal choices are limited. This is because, there are a lot you may not be able to eat”.

Vegetarians are also more likely to suffer colorectal cancer (cancer from the colon or rectum) and a lower bone mineral density.

Bone mineral density is a measure of bone density, reflecting the strength of bones as represented by calcium content.

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