Vegetarian Diets & Foods
Once upon a time, it was assumed that a vegetarian diet and food was automatically healthier for you than one that contains meat. However, with rising publicity raising concerns about vegetarians getting enough quality protein in their diets, this has been called into question.
There is little doubt that vegetarian diets and foods fulfils at least two key criteria for a healthy diet – that is, low in fat and with plenty of fruits and vegetables – so what are the other requirements to be sure that a vegetarian diet is a healthy one?
This is the biggest issue for many people. There is a growing concern that many vegetarians – especially children – don’t get enough protein.
Protein is vital, performing a wide variety of essential body functions, including:
- Building and repairing body tissues including muscle
- Supporting healthy immune function
- Supporting many essential body processes such as water balancing, nutrient transport, and muscle contractions
- Keeping skin, hair, and nails healthy
The daily requirement is that women need about 45g and men require 55g per day, although this will be higher for athletes or anyone who works out regularly.
There are a variety of good sources of protein including nuts, seeds, pulses, grains/cereals, soy products, dairy products and free range eggs. In addition, many vegetarians have started to supplement their diet with protein shakes – whey protein is considered the best choice, but there are also powdered egg proteins available, plus vegan option such as soy and even pea protein.
Carbohydrates are our most important source of energy. Eating sufficient carbs is rarely a problem for vegetarians, as fruits and vegetables, along with whole grain products, are the best sources of carbohydrates.
Overall, between 50-70% of your daily calories should come from complex carbs.
If you are avoiding meat, then some vitamins are harder to obtain. To ensure that you get sufficient quantities of key vitamins, consider these sources:
Vitamin A- Carrots, tomatoes, peaches & margarine.
Vitamin B- Cereals, nuts, pulses and green vegetables.
Vitamin B12- Bananas, soya milk, some cereals and veggie burgers.
Vitamin C- Fresh fruit, salad vegetables and potatoes.
Vitamin D- Most margarines, milk, cheese and butter.
Vitamin E- Eggs and vegetable oil.
Vitamin K- Fresh vegetables, cereals and bacterial synthesis in the intestine.
The vegetarian diet is typically a lifestyle choice, and it can be a very healthy one. By ensuring that you eat sufficient protein, and by selecting a wide variety of the many fruits and vegetables that nature has to offer, you can ensure that you reap all the benefits of this way of eating.