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Health lecture on nutritional needs for vegetarians

April 22
20:58 2011

LOS ANGELES: Community members at over 50 locations across North America attended a local Health Awareness Lecture on the topic of Nutritional Considerations for Vegetarians. The lecture was organized by BAPS Charities in support of First Lady Michelle Obama’s initiative, “Let’s Move”.

Facing the current reality that one in three kids is overweight and is part of the first generation expected to be outlived by their parents, Mrs. Obama’s ‘Let’s Move’ initiative, now in its second year, is diligently working to end childhood obesity. Attempting to tackle the problem head on, the BAPS Charities Health Awareness Lecture focused on educating parents on the healthy vegetarian changes they could make in children’s lives.

Both the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada have stated that at all stages of life, a properly planned vegetarian diet is “healthful, nutritionally adequate, and provides health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.” However, of the many millions of Americans who follow a vegetarian-based diet, certain populations still tend to have some level of nutritional deficiency due to improper dietary planning.

“I turned to vegetarianism when I was 16, in the middle of varsity basketball season,” said Dr. Yogi Mehta, a general practitioner and volunteer in Ohio. “I wanted to live a more spiritually centered life as a Hindu, and my diet had to change. To keep up my stamina and muscle mass I needed to make sure my diet was rich with protein and iron to compensate for the absence of meat.”

Vegetarians commonly face a B-12 deficiency because, unless fortified, plants are not rich in this necessary vitamin. It is most important for vegetarians to maintain regular habits of drinking milk, an adequate source of B-12. Another common pitfall is that even though people may eat FDA recommended amounts of grains, fruits, and vegetables, some often negate the nutritional intake with excess amounts of hydrogenated and saturated fat – butter, oil, heavy cream, and cheese.

Vijay Desai of Dallas, Texas talked to an audience of visitors about his triple bypass surgery. “Too many years of eating meats, full of fats and cholesterol, had my arteries fully blocked.

The thought of allowing food to cause this much stress and potentially take my life was enough to change my lifestyle.” Desai said that his experiences have led to a change at home, now he enjoys exploring vegetarian cuisine with his wife and kids as they cook together as a family.

BAPS Charities invited dieticians to offer healthy alternatives for families practicing vegetarianism. A similar health awareness forum has also been implemented for the youth wing of BAPS. Following First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, the youth are encouraged to understand the importance of eating fruits and vegetables, prepare healthy vegetarian meals, and embrace a daily exercise routine.

“Fruits and vegetables are an excellent source of vitamins and nutrition, but more importantly, they are easy on the human digestive tract,” said Dr. Neha Shah, a dietician in Washington, D.C. “The human intestine is longer than that of a carnivore and digesting meat or poultry prevents the intestine from functioning at its optimal level.”

BAPS Charities structured the seminars around educating attendees on preventative medicine, eating healthy to avoid future diseases, and illnesses.

In addition to nutrition, working with the American Cancer Society, BAPS Charities stressed the importance for both men and women over the age of 50 to begin regular colon screenings for early detection of issues and even earlier for those who have a family history of colorectal cancer.

BAPS Charities hosts a number of medical initiatives year round. Medical camps are set up in rural communities overseas, and mobile testing sites for blood screening are set up regularly in North America. Medical education is a major component of prevention, and in 2010, more than 12,000 people attended informational seminars on health topics ranging from women’s health to eye care.

India Post News Service

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