Looking back at around a dozen years ago, vegetarianism was not nearly as widespread as it is today. Those who refused to eat meat were claimed to be odd and impractical, which pushed vegetarians to form groups and movements to sustain their ideology. Given that, as of today, there are approximately 375 million vegetarians all around the globe, there is no way to ignore the drastic spread of something that was considered almost unacceptable in the past century.
Many become vegetarians for ideological reasons such as environmentalism, ethics, or religion. Some, however, switch their gastronomic habits because they believe that vegetarianism is beneficial for their health. The latter reason has recently become especially far-reaching, particularly in Western countries. It is no secret that animal protein and saturated fats, as studies confirm, hold a high risk of overloading human body and causing a whole range of diseases. Since doing anything in excess can potentially be harmful, let us break down some facts and tips for practicing your diet without sacrificing your health.
Good news is, the overwhelming majority of respected medical organizations believe that a properly composed vegetarian or vegan diet can be nutritional and healthy. This puts the shade on all pro-meat arguments claiming that animal products are essential for one’s organism.
However, there is more to the discussion. Abrupt switch to a vegetarian diet may cause a shortage of many vitamins, macro- and micro-elements. Thus, even a well thought through diet written out by a dietitian, while meets all the nutritional needs, may not be suitable for certain individuals. That is due to a gradual digestion of nutrients from new products, meaning that if your body is not used to consuming certain foods, it will more likely need some time to adjust to them before it can efficiently assimilate all the nutrients. Therefore, many nutritionists quite reasonably recommend taking supplementary vitamins in the first stages of converting to vegetarianism.
“So, where do you get your protein as a vegetarian/vegan?” is probably the most common question meat lovers ask those abstaining from meat. Ironically, they are also usually the ones who have no idea where they get their fiber, vitamin C, etc. In the following paragraphs, let us look at all the elements that vegetarians tend to be short on and discuss the alternative sources of them.
The little-known fact about protein is that most of us overeat of it. So, how much protein does your body need?
When it comes to protein for a vegetarian, the most important thing is for it to be wholesome. Wholesome proteins are those where the proportions of essential amino acids are similar to the proportions of amino acids in a human protein. These are animal and soy protein. It is necessary for a vegetarian to ensure that their food contains all essential amino acids. Soy, tofu, beans, pistachios, and quinoa are the best protein sources. In general, lacto-ovo-vegetarians and vegans receive more than sufficient amount of protein.
As a vegetarian, you do not need to worry about iron as long as you eat healthily. As with proteins, it is crucial to maintain a balanced diet and follow some rules:
- Do not drink coffee or tea while eating, and right before or after it, because in combination with these drinks iron is not being digested well, which is due to tannins contained in tea and coffee. Herbal tea, however, does not have this effect since it has zero caffeine.
- On the contrary, vitamin C increases iron digestion, so if you are on iron supplements or you are eating foods full of iron, try drinking orange juice along.
- Include strawberries, green leafy vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts), bell peppers (yellow, red and green) and cauliflower in your diet.
- Tofu, lentils, spinach, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, dried apricots, raisins, peas, soy, chickpeas, hummus, oatmeal, and other grains are vital sources of iron for vegetarians. Some of the mentioned above beans also contain lysine, which is an amino acid that helps your body to assimilate iron.
B12 is an essential vitamin for the human body. It is a key participant in the process of hematopoiesis, and one’s nervous system highly depends on this vitamin, since it maintains the correct growth of cells, reproduces their genetic information and participates in the secretion of essential hormones.
There are a few things that vegetarians need to know about B12:
- There is not a single vegetable product (that is not artificially enriched) which would contain a sufficient amount of this vitamin.
- Lacto-ovo-vegetarians usually consume enough of it from eggs and dairy products, if those are eaten
- Vegans can get a certain amount of B12 from products that are artificially enriched with it, such as beverages from soy and rice, special food yeast, and breakfast cereals.
Our body can store B12 for some years, so if you have become a vegan recently, you more likely have enough reserves of it. However, there is no way to check its levels accurately, because the hematologic symptoms B12 shortage is masked by folic acid (which vegetarian diet has lots of). The insidiousness of this deficit lies in the fact that it is only detected when the nervous system has already begun to developmental disorders. That is why it is highly advised for both vegetarians and vegans to take B12 supplements on a regular basis.
Remember not to go to any extremes, maintain a healthy diet and educate yourself right along on how to make the best out of vegetarianism. Before drastically changing your diet, we kindly advise you go to ThePaperWriting.com to learn more about all types no-meat diets, ask your doctor for recommendations and consider visiting a dietitian.