Why become a Vegetarian?
Among the many reasons for being a vegetarian, health and general well-being is the most common. Many claim they have more energy and better digestion because of a plant based diet. A vegetarian lifestyle is appealing for ecological or religious concerns. While others share a compassion for animals or a belief in non-violence. Some people simply dislike the taste of meat or find it helps cut the cost of their grocery bill. The key to a healthy vegetarian diet, as with any other diets, is to eat a wide variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, plenty of leafy greens, whole grain products, nuts, seeds, and legumes. It is easy to fill up with starchy carbohydrates so balance is the key.
There is no need to miss out on any of the required nutrients with a properly balanced vegetarian diet. See below for good sources of the nutrients commonly found in meat and animal products.
SOURCES OF PROTEIN: quinoa, millet, teff, beans, lentils, tofu, nuts, seeds, tempeh, chickpeas, peas... Many common foods, such as whole grain bread, greens, potatoes, and corn, quickly add to protein intake.
SOURCES OF IRON: dried fruits, baked potatoes, mushrooms, cashews, dried beans, spinach, chard, tofu, tempeh, bulgur, and iron-fortified foods (such as cereals and oatmeal) are all good sources of iron. To increase the amount of iron absorbed at a meal, eat a food containing vitamin C, such as citrus fruit or juices, tomatoes, or broccoli. Using iron cookware also adds to iron intake.
SOURCES OF CALCIUM: Good sources include broccoli, collard greens, kale, mustard greens; tofu prepared with calcium, low-fat dairy products, fortified soy-milk, and fortified orange juice.
SOURCES FOR B12: The adult recommended intake for vitamin B12 is very low. Vitamin B12 comes primarily from animal-derived foods. A diet containing dairy products or eggs provides adequate vitamin B12. Fortified foods, such as some brands of cereal, nutritional yeast, soy-milk, or soy analogs are good non-animal sources. Check labels to discover other products that are fortified with vitamin B12. Tempeh and sea vegetables are not a reliable source of vitamin B12. To be on the safe side, if you do not consume dairy products, eggs, or fortified foods regularly, you should take a non-animal derived supplement.
SOURCES FOR OMEGA-3: To maximize production of DHA and EPA (omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and made by our bodies), include good sources of alpha-linolenic acid in your diet. Alpha-linolenic acid is found in flaxseed, flaxseed oil, canola oil, tofu, soybeans, and walnuts. You can also obtain DHA directly from foods fortified with DHA from microalgae (in some brands of soy-milk) and supplements containing microalgae-derived DHA.
Children and a vegetarian diet.
According to The American Dietetic Association, vegetarian and vegan diets can meet all nitrogen needs and amino acid requirements for growth. Diets for children should contain enough calories to support growth and have reliable sources of key nutrients such as iron, zinc, vitamin D, and vitamin B12.
What is different about a Vegan diet?
Vegans, in addition to being vegetarian, do not eat or use other animal products and by-products such as eggs, dairy products, honey, leather, fur, silk, wool, cosmetics, and soaps derived from animal products.
It is very easy for a vegan diet to meet the recommendations for protein as long as calorie intake is adequate. Strict protein planning or combining is not necessary. The key is to eat a varied diet. Almost all foods except for alcohol, sugar, and fats provide some protein. Vegan sources include: lentils, chickpeas, tofu, peas, peanut butter, soy milk, almonds, spinach, rice, whole wheat bread, potatoes, broccoli, kale...
For example, if part of a day's menu included the following foods, you would meet the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein for an adult male:
- 1 cup oatmeal, 1 cup soy milk
- 2 slices whole wheat bread, 1 bagel
- 2 Tablespoons peanut butter
- 1 cup vegetarian baked beans
- 5 ounces tofu, 2 Tablespoons of almonds
- 1 cup broccoli, and 1 cup brown rice.
VEGAN BAKING AND COOKING
Eggs and dairy products are often used in cooking to act as a binder for all the other ingredients. Following a Vegan diet does not need to restrict your enjoyment of fresh home baked foods because substitution is easy with a little imagination.
Substitute for each egg:
- 1/4 cup (2 ounces) soft tofu blended with the liquid ingredients of the recipe, or
- 1 small banana, mashed, or
- 1/4 cup applesauce, or
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot starch, or Ener-G Egg Replacer or another commercial mix found in our store.
The following substitutions can be made for dairy products:
- Soy milk, rice milk, potato milk, nut milk, or water (in some recipes) may be used.
- Buttermilk can be replaced with soured soy or rice milk. For each Cup of buttermilk, use 1 cup soy-milk plus 1 tablespoon of vinegar.
- Soy cheese available in health food stores. (Be aware that many soy cheeses contain casein, which is a dairy product.)
- Crumbled tofu can be substituted for cottage cheese or ricotta cheese in lasagna and similar dishes.
- Several brands of nondairy cream cheese are available at Healthy Foods & More.
And if you are at all worried about missing out on any essential element in your diet there are many shake mixes and supplements available that will ensure a you get a truly balanced diet.
If you have any concerns or questions about either a Vegetarian or Vegan diet please visit our store and our experienced staff will be happy to assist you.