People decide to be a vegetarian for many different reasons - animal welfare, the environment, health, not liking the taste of meat and for some, because it is fashionable within their group at the time.
vegetarian-based diet has some great health benefits, such as usually being
lower in saturated fat and cholesterol and higher in fibre, potassium and
magnesium, as well as creating lower incidences of gallstones, constipation and
colon cancer, however there is an increased risk of nutrient deficiencies if you do not ensure you eat a range of different foods and correctly combine vegetarian protein (details on how to do this below). The nutrient deficiencies that I commonly see in vegetarian clients, who are not protein combining correctly, include:
- B12 – found in animal protein food sources and for which there is an increased
need during pregnancy, breast feeding and growth periods
B2, Vitamin A, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium and several minerals
D – which may cause rickets in children and is important for the maintenance of
healthy skeletal, cardiovascular and immune functions
– one of the most common deficiencies found in vegetarians
– vegetarians are susceptible to iron deficiency anemia due to a lack of
readily absorbed heme iron, which is found in meat
deficiency – which can impair growth in children and cause hair loss, reduced
energy and immune function and decreased muscle mass in adults
What is a complete protein I hear you ask and aren't mushrooms touted as the vegetarian meat?
including eggs and dairy, contain all eight essential amino acids and
constitute a "complete" protein. An essential amino acid is one that can't be made by your body and is needed for your body to function correctly - hence the title of essential.
Plant foods are “incomplete”
proteins and contain fewer amino acids than animal foods. Plant-based diets can
provide adequate amounts of amino acids but only when a varied diet is eaten on
a daily basis. The mixture of proteins from grains, legumes, seeds, nuts and
vegetables provide a complement of amino acids where the deficits in one food are
made up by another. Not all types of plant foods need to be eaten at the same
meal, since amino acids are combined in the body's protein pool. To gain the
greatest use of all the amino acids, it's best to consume complementary
proteins each day.
The following food combinations will help to ensure you are consuming all your needed amino acids for optimum health:
Grains with legumes – Basmati rice with Lentil Dahl
Grains with eggs or dairy – Wholegrain toast with poached egg
Legumes with nuts and seeds – Stir fry tofu with sesame seeds and
Legumes with eggs or dairy – Chickpea curry with yoghurt
Nuts and seeds with grains – Almond spread on spelt bread
Nuts and seeds with eggs or dairy – Roasted seed/nut mix sprinkled
onto fruit & yoghurt
But what are Legumes, Grains, Nuts and Seeds?
Chick peas, lentils, broad beans,
black-eyes peas, peas, kidney beans, lima beans, navy beans, sprouts, soy beans
rye, oats, buckwheat, wheat, corn, millet, spelt, quinoa, kamut, barley,
cashews, pecans, brazil nuts, almonds, macadamias, hazelnuts, pistachios
seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, linseed/flaxseed, chia
Helpful tips for good health
a wide variety of food to ensure consuming all nutrients required for good
drinking tea with meals as this reduces absorption of nutrients
your meals carefully to ensure adequate nutrient intake
regular bloods tests, especially iron and B12, to ensure you have adequate
to your naturopath regarding appropriate supplementation, if necessary
Thanks for reading.