In general, non-meat diets have been associated with lower risks of cardiovascular diseases, obesity, type 2 diabetes and some cancers (the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition). The reasoning behind is that a vegetarian diet is rich in fibre, folic acid, potassium, magnesium and unsaturated fats (the good ones).
We have previously discussed the positives of eating meat and we’ve busted the myths around it but now let’s have a look at the vegetarian/vegan diet and how nutritious it is.
Here is what an Eating-Well Vegetarian Plate looks like:
Lots of fruits and veggies – whether fresh or frozen, juiced or dried! No need to explain how important they are for the body.
Bread, rice, potatoes, pasta and starchy foods – the basis of most meals in a non-meat diet. Preferably wholemeal and wholegrains! They supply complex carbohydrates that the body needs longer to process meaning that they supply us with energy over a longer period of time.
Milk and dairy products rich in calcium, protein and some vitamins. If you are avoiding dairy foods, try with fortified soya, rice and out drinks or other foods that are high in vitamin C content.
Alternatives to meat, fish and dairy products – pulses, nut, seeds, wheat proteins and mycoprotein.
Looking pretty much the same as the commonly-known Eat-Well Plate, huh? Nonetheless, not taking in any meat or dairy products means that there is a deficiency of certain vital vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B-12 and D, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids,zinc and iron. Here are some alternative solutions as to which foods to gain those from.
Legumes, all sorts of beans, peas, lentils, soy and nuts! Especially nuts! They are so rich in protein, iron, zinc and calcium that they can rival meat and fish. You can also try with soya milk and vegan cheese!
All of the above foods are rich in protein, low in saturated fats and cholesterol free which is all very good for the heart and the cardiovascular system.
As meat is the only natural source of vitamin B-12 which is vital for the normal functioning of the brain and the nervous system, make sure you are getting at least some of it! You can find it in eggs, milk and other dairy products. If you are a vegan, try to increase the intake of fortified products such as breakfast cereals, milk substitutes made from soy, tofu and meat replacements made from wheat gluten and soybeans. Another alternative is just taking some vitamin B12 supplements.
Also vitamin D! A good meat substitute to get that vitamin D is fortified margarine andbreakfast cereals. Also sunlight!
You can also top up your iron and zinc intake by eating leafy green veggies!
So if you are considering going veggie/vegan, do not be scared! Substituting meat is not so difficult. However, if you have been a meat-eater all your life, make sure you add to your vegan diet vitamin B12 and D, calcium, iron, zinc and protein.
Going veggie/vegan is quite adventurous but it also brings in a big change in a person’s life.
Do not hesitate, give it a go! You will definitely feel better about yourself not only physically but mentally too! And let’s be honest what a better way to bring in a change in the world!
Written by Dr. Noel Duncan