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So You Want To Go Vegetarian, Vegan, or Something in Between?

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vegetariandietOne of my biggest pet peeves is when people turn vegetarian because it seems like the cool thing to do. Yes, those people do exist. There’s even people that claim to be vegetarian yet sneak in a piece of delicious steak when they think no one is looking.

For the purposes of this post, unless I otherwise specify, assume I’m talking about vegetarians specifically (although I will touch upon the vegan lifestyle).

Why?

Going vegetarian is a big deal. You need to make sure that you are eating the right things to replace the nutrition you got from eating the meat. Especially if you’re not into tofu or don’t eat fish either. Have you done the research to understand what your diet choices mean to you? Are you athletic? If so, you need more protein than others. Yikes.

This is not a rant, but a cry for people to consider the things they need to about their lifestyle choices before making the decision to go vegetarian.

The Vegetarian Diet Plan

The parts of your diet you absolutely need to replace is your iron and zinc supply. But there are other, less well known, things that you also should be focusing on. The following is a list of vitamins and minerals to watch out for … and how you can replace the nutrition.

  • Calcium: Calcium-enriched and fortified products like certain juice, cereals, kelfir, almond milk, yogurts and tofu are a great way to replace the loss of calcium.
  • Iodine is a component in thyroid hormones, which help regulate metabolism, growth and function of key organs. Just a 1/4 teaspoon of iodized salt provides a significant amount of iodine.
  • Iron is a important part in the promotion of red blood cells. Good sources of iron are dried beans and peas, enriched cereals, lentils and whole-grain products. Dark leafy green vegetables like Kale are also a great source while dried fruit is a yummy alternative that can be added to a dessert. Iron can be hard to absorb though, you also need to help foods rush in Vitamin C to promote absorption.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids if you’re not eating fish and/or eggs than you need to find a way to get the omega-3 back in your body. Oils like canola and soy are great options, hemp is super healthy and loaded with omega 3, even flaxseed and soybeans are great.
  • Protein helps maintain healthy skin, bone and muscles. Again, eggs and dairy are a great way to get protein but if you’ve decided against eating these things, you need to find alternatives. Good sources are: soy product, tofu, legumes, lentils, nuts and seeds.
  • Vitamin B-12 is very important to prevent anemia and keep your heart healthy but it can be hard to get enough especially because its mainly found in animal-based products. For vegans, I would consider taking a vitamin supplement or vitamin-enriched cereal and fortified soy products.
  • Zinc– Cheese, beans and legumes, wheat germ and soy are great sources of zinc. It is important part of enzymes and in the building of proteins.

Written by Marta

November 1st, 2013 at 9:52 pm