The word ” Vegetarian ” was coined by the Vegetarian Society of the United Kingdom in about 1847. The word does not come from vegetable as is generally assumed : It is a derivation of the Latin word ‘vegetari ‘ which means to enliven.
The practice of vegetarianism, however, goes far back in history. Many noted philosophers and religious teachers urged their followers to avoid a flesh diet. Brahminism, Jainism, Zoraostrianism and Buddhism acknowledged the sacredness of life and the need to live without causing suffering ; so did many of the early Christians.
There are various types of vegetarians. ” Vagans “are the strictest vegetarians who eat only plant foods and exclude all animal by-products such as eggs, milk, cheese, curd, butter, ghee and even honey. There are “lacto vegetarians” who eat plant foods as well as dairy products and ” lacto-avo vegetarians ” who eat eggs besides plant foods and dairy products. There are even fish-eating vegetarians. The common factor among them is that they do not eat the flesh of warm- blooded animals.
A vegetarian diet can have many nutritional benefits, if it is rich in fruits and vegetables, and contains moderate amounts of seeds, nuts, whole grains and legumes. One of the main benefits of a proper vegetarian diet is its low caloric content in relation to the bulk supplied, which helps maintain ideal weight.
Another benefit of the vegetarian diet is the much lower intake of fat, if dairy products, seeds and nuts are eaten sparingly. This accounts for lower serium cholesterol levels found in vegetarians, which considerably reduces the risk of developing heart diseases and breast and colon cancer.
A third nutritional advantage of the vegetarian diet is its high fibre content. Fibre, being indigestible, increases the bulk of the faces, keeps them soft and makes them easy to expel. One study has indicated that lacto-avo vegetarians consume twice as much and vagans four times as much fibre as non-vegetarians. High fibre intake has been associated with decreased risks of diseases of the colon, appendicits, cancer of the colon and rectum, hiatus hernia, piles and varicose veins.
Vegetarianism is thus a system based on scientific principles and has proved adequate for the best nutrition free from the poisons and bacteria of diseased animals. It is the best diet for man’s optimum, physical, mental and spiritual development.