For years I have had people ask me if I am a vegetarian, or I’ll be at a party and people will ask me, “What are you going to eat? They’ve made a meat dish!”. It always makes me laugh at the assumption that I am a vegetarian, when in fact ladies and gentleman, I am not and nor have I ever been. Well except that one month a few years back when I tried a raw food diet for a month. I started to get a complex about it, thinking maybe I look anemic, ha! Or maybe just the assumption that healthy people only eat spinach and kale and almonds. I do eat all of those but alas, I also eat meat.
This brings me to my current situation. I live with a vegetarian (thanks Rach) and recently I noticed that I have been eating way less meat than I did when I lived at home. When I lived at home I probably ate meat nearly every night but now living out of home for the past few years I don’t buy meat as much and living with a vegetarian don’t cook it as much either. If we are all home we often just cook together. For example, the other night I got home from a 10 hour day at work and was slightly exhausted (to say the least) and I pulled a random bunch of things out of the fridge and made a salad which included Tofu which I baked in the oven in tamari, sesame oil, fresh ginger and tumeric grated, garlic, sesame seeds and some local honey that I picked up recently that is delicious, I added this to a fresh salad made with spinach (that the lovely Rach picked from our garden . . . it looked a little sad but we still ate it), silverbeet, kale, green cabbage (all shredded), avocado, green and red bell pepper, tomato, fennel, parsley, pepitas, lemon juice from the lemons off my grandpas tree and some olive oil and pepper. I think that was everything. And it might sound like a random combination but it was very yummy and very filling. The night before Rach made a salad with lettuce, avocado, tomato, carrot, baked sweet potato, lemon thyme, mozzarella, boiled egg . . . gosh I can’t remember what else was in it but again super yummy and very filling.
If I meet with someone for a Naturopathic consultation I always ask what Protein they are eating everyday and assess their intake of not just Protein but Iron also. When I had the realization that I was eating way less meat than normal and had been consistently for a long period of time I thought I’d better take my own advice and make sure I am getting enough protein in my day. Hence todays blog.
HOW TO BE A HEALTHY VEGETARIAN
W H A T T Y P E A R E Y O U ?
Lacto-ovo Vegetarian : Excludes meat, fish and poultry but includes dairy and eggs.
Lacto Vegetarian : Excludes meat, fish and poultry as well as eggs.
Pescatarian : Excludes all animal flesh foods except fish.
Ovo Vegetarian : Excludes meat, fish and dairy but includes eggs.
Vegan : Avoids eating or using animal products inc. fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products and some honey.
Raw Vegan : Includes unprocessed vegan foods that have not been eaten above 115 degrees celsius.
Macrobiotic : Includes unprocessed vegan foods such as wholegrains, fruit and vegetables and occasional fish. Inclusion of Asian vegetables such as seaweed and daikon.
Fruitarian : Only eat fruits and vegetables botanically classified as fruits such as tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, avocados and nuts and seeds.
W H A T D O Y O U N E E D ?
P R O T E I N
Proteins are found in every cell of our body and therefore, our body cannot build and repair tissues without adequate amounts. The body has 20 amino acids that are needed for these functions in our bodies, 8 of those are considered essential in adults and 10 in infants. These 8 must be derived from food sources because the body does not make them.
Individuals require around 0.8-1g protein / kg of body weight. For example, a 55kg women requires approximately 44g protein a day.
Depending on what ‘type’ of vegetarian you are your options for protein consumption will differ : Here are a few suggestions which you should aim to include a combination of these everyday.
- Fish (salmon / sardines / herring / mackerel) & Eggs & Dairy (complete protein with all the essential amino acids)
- Nuts & Seeds
- Legumes & Beans
- Tofu & Tempeh
- Bean Sprouts
I R O N
There are two types of Iron. Heme Iron (from meat) and Non-Heme Iron (from plants). Obviously Vegetarians will be focusing on the Non-Heme Iron from plans. Here is a list of some foods rich in Non-Heme Plant based Iron :
I wrote a post a few months back about Athletes and Iron with some helpful information which discusses the importance of Iron in that post which you can read ( HERE ).
C Y A N O C O B A L A M I N
Otherwise, simply known as Vitamin B12. This is a nutrient that is often deficient in Vegetarians because it is not found in plant foods. It is abundant in meats and fish and a smaller percentage found in dairy and eggs. It is very important in our nervous system, cardiovascular system, in red blood cell formation, DNA production, folate conversion (just to name a few). Optimal absorption requires a healthy functioning digestive system so if you take things like antacids this could interfere with your B12 absorption. Because the acid in our stomach, the enzyme pepsin and intrinsic factor all plays a role in releasing the B12 from a protein so it can be absorbed.
Signs and symptoms that you may be low in B12 include :
- tingling in hands and feet
- balance and memory problems
*Consider find a good B vitamin or Multivitamin Supplement to support adequate levels.
Therefore, when Vegetarian Diets are done properly and the consumption of a balanced meat-free diet, they can be very cleansing and anti-inflammatory in our bodies. And promote better health and wellbeing!