Do you eat a vegetarian diet on a daily basis? If so, how do you ensure your nutritional needs are met?
In Ireland, many vegetarians are eating very unhealthy diets; they are not getting the required nutrients from their food. This is why we hear many controversial reports stating that vegetarian and vegan diets are bad when realistically they are quite they have opposite effect, if they are followed correctly. The term Vegetarian has an old fashioned ring to it and in fact you would be surprised with the amount of people that eat fish and call themselves vegetarians. Today, we hear more about Paleo, South Beach, Atkins and Raw Vegans. Vegetarian diets are clean, cleansing and alkaline. Raw vegan is a step above the rest and is trending in Ireland but unfortunately our cold climate turns many people off. Putting live food in our bodies is the ultimate and removing processed foods from our diet will reverse and prevent disease.
The Gerson therapy is proving hugely successful in curing cancers and other medical conditions. Juicing and live foods will nourish our bodies and minds.
Whole fruits and vegetables are some of the best foods you can eat. They are low in calories, high in fibre, and brimming with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They play an important role in staving off heart disease and stroke, managing blood pressure and cholesterol, helping prevent certain types of cancer, protecting vision, and maintaining a healthy digestive system. The vitamins and phytochemicals that give plants their brilliant colours work as antioxidants, immune boosters, and anti-inflammatories in humans. Eating fruits and vegetables at the peak of freshness is also great for your health as well as your wallet. You’ll benefit from all the vitamins, minerals, fibre, and antioxidants these colourful plants have to offer, and since there’s often an abundance of fruits and vegetables during the spring and summer season, you’re more likely to find bargains.
However, Vegetarians and Vegans must be aware and ensure they get adequate amounts of protein, calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamin B12 in their diet. Vegetarian and Vegan diets get bad reviews when the dieter simply cuts out foods and replaces it with refined carbohydrates such as pastries, quiches, creamy white pastas, pizzas, processed veggie burgers, soups packed with salt and other refined carbohydrates. In Ireland, it is frightening to see the amount of people who simply cut meat, dairy and don’t consider the nutrients they may possibly be lacking. Some live on chips and veggie burgers and are repulsed by meat. In restaurants, growing up I remember vegetarian options to be very few and mainly consisted of fatty, sugary choices. I always opted for a plate of vegetables or a side salad….not very filling! Today, we have more food choices in restaurants and cafes and we are evolving and offering more food choices.
To get the ultimate from your vegetarian diet stick to the following tips:
You can easily meet your daily protein needs by eating a variety of plant-based foods.
Beans, lentils, nuts, rice, and soy products like tofu and tempeh. Don’t rely on huge portions of cheese to fill the protein gap since cheeses often adds unwanted saturated fat.
Iron carries oxygen in the blood, and iron deficiency can leave you feeling tired. Vegetarian sources of iron include spinach, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, lentils, turnip greens, whole-wheat breads, peas, dried apricots, prunes, and raisins.
Zinc is necessary for a variety of functions including helping maintain the immune system and keeping it functioning properly. Zinc sources include a variety of beans (white beans, kidney beans, and chickpeas), wheat germ, milk and milk products, and pumpkin seeds.
Vitamin B12 is found primarily in animal products and some fortified foods. Vegetarians can get it from milk products, eggs, and B12-fortified products including some breakfast cereals, soy-based beverages, and vegetable burgers.
The mineral calcium plays a vital role in overall health, including achieving and maintaining healthy teeth and bones. Vegetarians can meet their calcium requirements by including calcium-rich dairy products (milk, cheese, and yogurt) in meals and snacks.
(One 8-ounce glass of milk provides 256 milligrams of calcium, which is about one-fourth of the recommended daily intake of 1,000 milligrams per day for adults age 50 and under and 1,200 milligrams for age 51 and older recommended by the Institute of Medicine.)
Incorporate non-dairy sources of calcium into your diet. Theses include dark-green leafy vegetables including collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, kale, and okra.
Eat more whole grains…..
All grains start out as whole grains, which means that they still contain the germ, endosperm, and bran. The bran is full of filling fibre, which keeps you full, while the germ and endosperm contain beneficial antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and other healthful compounds. Processing, however, can remove one or more of these components, making refined grains less healthful. Research has shown that eating whole grains helps lower your risk for heart disease, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Not only are high-fibre foods tasty but they also help control hunger, lower cholesterol, and maintain digestive health. Fibre is the part of plant foods that our body can’t digest or absorb into the bloodstream, which means it doesn’t provide us with any calories, but it does flush the digestive system as it moves through our bodies. Swap your standard breads and pastas for 100-percent whole-wheat varieties. Trade out your breakfast cereals for bran or oatmeal, and whole-wheat couscous for white rice……little changes like these add up to big benefits.
Here are some other simple substitutions and tips:
Eat the skin. Whether it’s an apple, pear, or potato, most of the fibre is in the skin.
Read the Nutrition Facts labels for cereals. While 5 grams of fibre is good, 8 grams or more is better.
Choose breads and crackers that have at least 2 grams of fibre per slice or serving.
Cook vegetables briefly. The longer vegetables cook, the more fibre they lose. Try steaming them until they’re crisp-tender to retain most of the fibre content. Also, snack on raw vegetables. Salads, with their vegetables and seeds or nuts toppings, make a good high-fibre option. Choose tofu, tempeh or seitan but please remember also that although all three are plant-based, they are processed foods, so be weary of their sodium content. Some brands have up to a fifth of the daily recommended value per serving. These high protein foods offer similar amounts of protein per serving as meat and add a different taste and texture than you may be used to. The serving size of these protein alternatives vary widely across brands, so be attentive to how many servings there are per package.
Vegetarian diets can certainly meet all your nutritional needs and the key to being a successful vegetarian is to eat a variety of foods ensuring all your nutrient bases are covered. Raw food diets are trending especially in sunny countries but we are learning the benefits of these diets and more interest has arisen over the last 5 years, my favourites being Natasha’s Living Food and of course my Raw menu at Rustic Stone. There are many types of raw diets; some include people eating raw meat similar to that of the Paleo diet. Meat is nutritious if it is grass fed. Beef and lamb are the safest meats to eat in Ireland ensuring of course they come from a very reputable source and not in processed burgers or ready-made meals.