The state door is open to serve vegetarian meals officially. The historic decision was taken in 2017, with the approval in the Portuguese Parliament of the Law that obliges to have in all the menus of canteens of public establishments an option without products of animal origin.
Thus, since mid-2017, schools, universities, hospitals, prisons, nursing homes, municipalities, social services of the public administration, among other entities of the State, have made available at least one vegetarian dish (Read here). This legislation is the result of a petition with more than 15 thousand signatures, and that deserved a political green light, after the Ministry of Health itself already recognized, in 2015, the benefits of a vegetarian diet.
“In the last decades, with the increase of knowledge in the sciences of nutrition and the environment, the scientific evidence has increased in favor of the greater presence of vegetal products in our diet. Populations with high or exclusive intakes of plant products appear to be less likely to contract chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, diabetes, and obesity, “says the Directorate-General for Health (DGS) in the national program for promotion of healthy eating – Guidelines for a healthy vegetarian diet.
“An exclusively vegetarian diet, when well planned, can fulfill all the nutritional needs of a human being and can be adapted to all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, childhood, adolescence and the elderly or even athletes,” says the same document.
But the vegetarian option is not only restricted to the health of our body, but it also promotes respect for animals, the sustainability of the environment and biodiversity. Concepts long defended by the United Nations that demand the human being to have a “sustainable feeding” to safeguard the Planet and the future generations.
There are over 120 thousand vegetarians
The Portuguese response to the challenge of sustainable food and living on Earth has grown every year and the latest study promoted by the Vegetarian Center, released in 2017, has shown that the number of vegetarians in Portugal has quadrupled in the last decade. Today there are about 120,000 Portuguese who follow a vegetarian diet, of which about half are vegan.
But what is a vegetarian person? “It is someone who feeds on cereals, vegetables, legumes, fruits, seeds and nuts, seaweed, among others and may or may not consume animal-derived products such as dairy products, eggs or honey.
A vegetarian does not consume any form of meat, although some broader currents such as ‘semi-vegetarianism’ or ‘flexitarian’ appear as partially vegetarian regimes, these should not be considered as a kind of vegetarianism, “according to the Portuguese Vegetarian Association.
It should be noted that among vegetarians there are differences according to the diet:
- Ovo-Lacto vegetarianism, exclude meat and fish, but allows eggs and dairy products;
- Lacto vegetarianism, do not eat meat, fish, and eggs, but eat dairy products;
- Ovo vegetarianism, reject meat, fish and dairy products, but consume eggs;
- and Vegans don’t eat meat, fish, eggs or dairy, nor consume footwear, clothing, hygiene or other products that contain traces of animal origin or are tested on animals.
Experts warn, however, that the option for an exclusively vegetarian diet does not guarantee health alone. The basic rule of healthy eating is that which takes into account the individual needs of each person (read the text “Three Philosophical Principles of Life“), and should be sufficient, balanced, diversified and adapted to each situation and circumstance. In the case of a vegetarian diet, for example, adequacy of the organism and planning is required so that there is no nutrient deficit or consumption of excess salt, fat or calories, experts say in the “guidelines healthy vegetarian“.
“The adoption and maintenance of a vegetarian diet, in particular, a vegan diet, requires a minimum of specific knowledge, food, and nutrition, which although simple, are not intuitive,” added the experts in the same document available in the Directorate General of health.
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