Eating A Healthy Vegetarian Diet
If you are thinking about moving away from a diet that does not contain meat, it is essential that you plan your vegetarian diet properly. Many people start vegetarian and vegan diets without devoting enough time to nutritional research and meal planning. As a result, a many people who start vegetarian diets give them up within a couple of months.
A common symptom of a poorly thought out vegetarian diet can be a lack of energy – and often accompanied by a significant loss in muscle mass. What they are actually experiencing is a form of protein-energy malnutrition (PEM). PEM emerges when a person fails to consume enough protein, leading to muscle loss and ultimately results in feelings of weakness that are often accompanied by head and muscle aches.
Others observe a number of other more peripheral problems that go hand in hand with a vegetarian diet that has not been researched and planned properly.
These problems can be circumvented by a few simple changes to the diet. A vegetarian who is experiencing PEM should either:
a) Find out what foods contain what amino chains, so they can combine them to form proteins
b) Start consuming larger amounts and more diversified sources of protein, such as nuts, soy milk, and yogurt.
c) Take regular food supplements
People with PEM often suffer from some form of iron deficiency as well. Because vegetarians can only consume non heme iron, which is more sensitive to iron inhibitors, they often do not consume enough to maintain healthy blood-iron levels. This can cause pervasive weakness and even anemia. Eating citrus fruits, potatoes and vegetables from the brassica family (e.g., broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts) can help improve absorption of iron and counter these effects.
Most nutritionists suggest that vegetarian and vegan dieters consume roughly twice the recommended amount of iron while greatly reducing their consumption of iron inhibitors. (Such as tea, coffee, red wine and soy based foods – which, unfortunately are one of the main sources of protein for vegetarian diets).
People in the second group who suffer from a range of other peripheral, diet-related problems are often not consuming enough of the nutrients that they would normally take in unknowingly on a diet that includes meat and dairy products. These nutrients include, for example, zinc, calcium, vitamin b, and riboflavin.
Some recent studies have suggested that vegetarians also process certain types of foods with less efficiency because they consume different amounts and varieties of absorption inhibitors and enhancers, however, there is also a suggestion that a vegetarian or vegan diet, when done correctly, is not only as healthy as a non vegetarian diet, but it is also much more heart-healthy – and usually contains higher amounts of antioxidants.
What does this all mean for you as a prospective vegetarian? It means that eating a healthful vegetarian diet is not only a good alternative to your current diet, but it can also lower your chances of getting heart disease and cancer.
If you are committed to eating a healthy vegetarian diet, you also need to dedicate enough time to research and plan it properly. If you don’t, there is a strong chance that you will end up in one of the two groups described above.