I have been getting a lot of requests lately to write about how to eat healthy as a vegetarian. The American Dietetic Association states that, “appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.” Vegetarian diets may help reduce the risk of: hypertension, diabetes, some cancers, coronary artery disease, and renal disease. However, a decrease in these health risks could only occur if a vegetarian diet is planned correctly and followed appropriately.
There are a few different types of vegetarian diets. A semi-vegetarian consumes dairy products, eggs, poultry, and fish. However, they exclude red meats. A pesco-vegetarian consumes dairy products, eggs, and fish. A lacto-ovo-vegetarian consumes dairy products and eggs. A lacto-vegetarian consumes only dairy products and a ovo-vegetarian consumes only eggs. A vegan does not consume any animal products or animal derivatives.
Protein, iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12 are abundantly found in meat and dairy products. Since, certain vegetarians do not consume meat, dairy, or both it is important to make sure these nutrients are consumed from other foods.
Good sources of:
Protein: Grains (i.e. barley, bulgur, corn, rice, oats), legumes (i.e. soybeans, lentils, dried peas, dried beans), seeds, nuts, nut butters, vegetables (smaller amounts), tofu, toasted wheat germ, veggie burgers, meat, eggs, and dairy products
Iron: Meat, fish, poultry, shellfish, legumes (smaller amount), dark green leafy vegetables, and fruit
Zinc: Meat, fish, poultry, shellfish, eggs, whole grain foods, vegetables, nuts
Calcium: Dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables, calcium-fortified orange juice, calcium-fortified soy milk, and legumes
Vitamin D: fish liver oil, eggs (smaller amount), canned fish (smaller amount), fortified milk and margarine
Vitamin B12: meat, fish, poultry, eggs, milk, cheese, and fortified cereals
Now for the party questions (questions I would get asked at a party):
Are there some foods that I can get a few of those nutrients at once from? Yes.
To get adequate protein, iron and zinc consume: beans, lentils, nuts, or seeds.
To meet your nutritional needs for vitamin B12, Calcium, and vitamin D consume: milk or fortified milk substitutes (soy, rice, almond).
What are complementary proteins and how do I get them?
Complete proteins contain all the essential amino acids (building blocks) that your body needs. Some foods do not contain all of these amino acids and are thus called incomplete proteins. Examples of this are grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Animal products and soy products are complete proteins. It is important for vegetarians to make sure that they are consuming incomplete proteins that complement each other.
Example: Grains are low in the amino acid lysine. Legumes are low in the amino acids: methionine, cysteine, and tryptophan. So if you consume rice with beans you are consuming all your essential amino in one meal, because they both have amino acids that the other food is low in or completely lacks.
KEY: Grains complement legumes. Legumes complement nuts and seeds. However, grains do not complement nuts and seeds.
What is a good recipe substitution for meat?
All you have to do is a little bean math! Just replace every one ounce of meat with 1/4 cup of beans.
Do you have another party question?