Usually, people choose to be vegan or vegetarian diet for moral reasons or as they want to improve their health. Vegetarian diet is generally rich in fruit and vegetables and low in saturated fats.
If you have decided to give up your daily bacon butty and have vowed to eat vegetables, that’s brilliant. But vegetarians need to be careful that they are not missing out on essential nutrients found in meat and dairy products.
Meat-free protein sources
Protein builds and repairs tissues of the body and is a building block of skin, bone, muscles, and blood. Our body doesn’t store protein, so there is a need to make sure that you’re getting adequate from your diet. Unfortunately for vegans, meat is a rich source of this macronutrient.
Whereas many plant-based foods also contain protein but they may not comprise protein in the accurate balance which the body needs. So, vegetarians require to make sure that they eat a blend of foods to achieve the right balance. Fortunately, you can find protein in pulses, grains and dairy products.
Other examples of protein-balanced meals comprise cereal with milk or deal with rice or chapatti, or baked potato with beans and cheese.
Your vitamin checklist
A balanced vegetarian diet normally gives you a better chance of getting your five-a-day. Therefore, to meet your RDA of vitamins, you need to be well in your right way. But if you are not certain, here are some foods to look out for specific nutrients.
Vitamin A is important for your immune system, eyesight, and healthy skin. You can find vitamin A in eggs and dairy products.
A vitamin, named beta carotene, is found in dark green vegetables and in colored fruits and vegetables like carrots, mango, and red peppers. Furthermore, beta carotene can be converted to vitamin A in the body.
Vitamin D also named as ‘the sunshine vitamin’, is certainly important. It helps you absorb calcium needed for our muscles to work suitably. Recently, deficiency of vitamin D has been related to several conditions, from heart disease to dementia and multiple sclerosis.
Vitamin D can be made in our body by the action of sunlight. Nevertheless, it is also present in mushrooms, dairy products and in cereals and margarine. Oily fish and eggs are also among the top dietary sources of vitamin D, so if you are adopting a vegetarian diet you are less expected to be getting enough.
Vitamin E helps you maintain healthy skin, immune system, and eyes. It can be found in vegetable oils and spreads, seeds and nuts, and also in leafy vegetables.
Vitamin K plays a very important role in the blood clotting process. Without it, injuries don’t heal appropriately. It can be found in dairy products and dark green leafy vegetables.
Vitamin B12 is involved in releasing energy from food, making red blood cells, and in using folic acid. Vegetarians struggle to get adequate of this nutrient from diets, but there are some animal-free foodstuffs you can get it from.
Vitamin B12 is entirely found in animal products, though it is present in yeast and seaweed. It is also added to some products like soya milk and breakfast cereals. Veggies may need to take a supplement so that they don’t become deficient.
The important minerals
Most of the minerals we require are found in a variety of foods and anybody eating a balanced diet can obtain plenty of them. Though, vegans must make sure they are getting enough iron and calcium.
Recently, the National Osteoporosis Society (NOS) warned that the fame of ‘clean eating’ and other nourishments where major foods groups are cut out is setting young individuals up for a future of weak bones.
Without urgent action being taken to inspire youngsters to include all food groups into their diets and avoid ‘clean eating’ regimes, there is a problem that broken bones will become just the ‘norm’.
Vegan groups were ticked off by this notice, but it’s true that most individuals obtain a great deal of the calcium from dairy products. Without it, it’s not good news for bones.
Calcium is also present in dark green vegetables, almonds, oranges, dried figs, sesame seeds, seaweed and in some types of bean. Moreover, if non-dairy calcium is eaten with a source of vitamin D, this will aid the body to absorb it.
Iron is needed for your blood to carry sufficient amount of oxygen around your body. If you don’t get adequate, you become anemic. The signs include feeling breathless and exhausted. Red meat is the richest dietary source of iron but there are some other meat-free sources too.
Vegetarian sources of iron comprise pulses like lentils and chickpeas, seeds and beans, breakfast cereals and bread. Spinach contains iron, but it is also found in other leafy vegetables like kale and broccoli.
Iron is also present in nuts, particularly almonds and cashews, and in dried apricots and raisins. Furthermore, your body can absorb iron from food more easily if it is taken with vitamin C:
It is present in most fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as fruit juice. There are some things which can reduce the iron the body can absorb. Taking tea with a meal will prevent the absorption of iron from the stomach.
Apart from vegetarians, people who must be more careful about getting adequate iron include women who are pregnant and those who have heavy periods.
Not so fishy
Omega-3 fatty acids are believed to boost brain development and reduce the risk of heart disease. But most commonly, they are found in fish. It’s not just vegans who are missing out, however.
According to a nutritionist, while the government has recommended eating two portions of fish a week, counting one of oily fish. But the fact is most of us don’t get adequate. Nutrition surveys found that two-thirds of us seldom have oily fish and typical intakes are half the recommended portion of 140 g.
Researchers explain that vegetarians and veggies can get omega-3 from flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, soya oil, rapeseed oil, and soy-based foods. Vegetarian supplements which are usually made from algae rather than fish are an option too.
Knowledge is power
Vegetarian diets or not, a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, and plant-based food is a great starting point for a healthy lifestyle.
Expectantly, this is food for supposed whether you have been vegan or vegetarian for yonks or if you’re in view of taking the flesh-free plunge. There are many other benefits to eating less meat but to go vegetarian healthily, you need to come equipped with some knowledge.