I have a guest post for you today from Olivier Perodin at Astronutrition.com, all about having a healthy vegetarian diet. Hopefully you will find it interesting:
Healthy Vegetarian Diets: Fulfilling Your Body’s Nutritional Needs
By Olivier Perodin @ AstroNutrition
Whether you’re considering becoming vegetarian for ethical, political, or health reasons, you may be faced with the old stereotype of being too weak to live your life fully. You may already realize that this is mostly a myth, since research from the UK’s Food and Drinker Federation’s Meat Free Group indicates that a vegetarian lifestyle can be much healthier than a typical non-vegetarian diet. However, a vegetarian diet can leave several nutritional gaps in your diet which you must take care to fill.
Calcium– This mineral is needed to maintain healthy bones and teeth and enable the body to effectively manage blood vessel, muscle, and nerve functions. Calcium is found in certain vegetables, usually dark green leafy vegetables such as kale or dairy products. Calcium deficiency is usually only a problem for vegan diets which eliminate all dairy products from the diet.
Iron– Iron is essential for the body to regulate the growth of cells and facilitate oxygen flow to the cells around the body. The majority of non-vegetarians gain sufficient iron from red meats. However, there are a number of excellent plant based sources of iron such as spinach, soy beans, and lentils.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids– These fatty acids or oils are an essential dietary component of maintaining a healthy heart and blood system. They reduce the rate of inflammation throughout the body, prevent excess blood clotting, and can actively reduce bad cholesterol in the blood. Non vegetarians gain Omega 3 in their diet from oily fish but there are many nuts and seeds such as walnuts or flaxseeds which contain high levels of omega 3.
Vitamin B12– This vitamin is essential for the health of the blood and nerve cells of the body. It is also needed for the body to produce DNA and prevent certain types of anemia. Unfortunately B12 cannot be found in any plant-based foods. It is usually found in animal products, however it can be found in certain fortified foods such as nutritional yeast and breakfast cereals.
Zinc– According to the National Institutes of Health, Zinc is present in cells all over the body. It can assist the immune system to fight bacteria or viruses; it is also needed by the body to make DNA and protein. Zinc helps the body to heal wounds and enhances the senses of smell and taste. It is especially important for pregnant women and children since zinc is essential for proper growth and development. Zinc can be found in pulses, beans, dairy products, and whole grains.
The Singapore Government’s Health Promotion Board explains how a full and healthy vegetarian diet to be achieved. There are a number of supplements which are tailored to help balance any shortfalls, including multivitamins, protein powders, and green food powders. These can boost protein, vitamin, and mineral levels in the diet to ensure your body maintains optimum nutrition levels.
Vegetarians can lead normal active lives with a healthy diet that fulfills their body’s needs. However, vegetarians do need to pay attention to ensure that they are consuming adequate levels of vitamins, minerals, and protein. According to Vegetarian Society, ensuring your diet is filled with whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables, and a balance of dairy, nuts, and pulses will help you fulfill your body’s nutritional needs for long term health and fitness.
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If you are vegetarian or vegan or have any sort of dietary restrictions, how do you make sure you get all the nutrients you need? What did you think about this article? I must say I am becoming more sceptical about dairy products- I am vegetarian and not vegan, but I have read a lot of studies contradicting the Western perception that we need milk for calcium, and some that say our bodies find it hard to absorb the calcium in dairy products.
I do agree that all sorts of diets can be healthy so long as they are balanced- I think if you are eating a wide range of natural produce then you should get all the vitamins and minerals you need. But I still take a multivitamin (when I remember) for insurance! I have been having nutritional yeast for the B12 as well.