THE VEGETARIAN DIET
IS IT RIGHT FOR YOU?
A vegetarian diet emphasizes the consumption of plant foods, and discourages the consumption of animal products. Reasons for adopting a plant-based diet can range from religious beliefs and animal welfare concerns to personal health. At LowFatLowCarb.com, we want to make sure you are informed before making nutritional decisions. Here’s what you need to know before making the transition to a healthy vegetarian diet.
WHAT IS A
In the broadest sense, a vegetarian diet is one that does not include meat. However, vegetarian diets often vary when it comes to the foods they include and exclude:
- Lacto-vegetarian diets exclude meat, fish, poultry, and eggs, but include dairy products.
- Ovo-vegetarian diets exclude meat, poultry, seafood, and dairy, but include eggs.
- Lacto-ovo vegetarian diets exclude meat, fish, and poultry, but include both dairy products and eggs.
- Pescatarian diets exclude meat and poultry, dairy, and eggs, but include fish.
- Pollotarian diets exclude meat, fish, and dairy, but include poultry.
- Vegan diets exclude meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products, as well as any other foods that come from animals in any way – even honey and gelatin.
Others may choose to reduce the amount of meat in their diet, eating mostly plant-based foods, but including meat, dairy, eggs, poultry, and fish on occasion and in small quantities.
BENEFITS OF A
The individuals who choose to adopt a vegetarian diet do so for a wide variety of reasons, and often experience a wide variety of results. When done healthfully, reducing the amount of meat and animal products in your diet can result in the following benefits:
Increased intake of fruits and vegetables
Increased antioxidant intake
Reduced cholesterol levels
Decreased risk of heart disease
Possibility of weight loss
Increased energy levels
Increased fibre intake
More deliberate food choices
Environmental benefits (since most meat is commercially farmed)
Can help support changes to a more active lifestyle
If you opt for a vegetarian diet, it’s important to ensure that you’re not substituting processed foods for meat and other animal products. These foods are often high in calories, sugar, fat, and sodium. Make sure you know your nutritional needs! Eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and calcium-rich foods to make sure your body is getting the nutrients it needs.
WHAT THE EXPERTS
Time after time, studies have shown that vegetarianism is a great way to improve your overall health. A study conducted by the University of Toronto in conjunction with St. Micheal’s Hospital showed that a vegetarian diet can lower so-called “bad“ cholesterol by almost 29%. And that’s not all! A fruit and vegetable diet can provide tremendous benefits, including reduced cancer risks; colon cancer, in particular, is less likely once you cut out red meat.
Some studies have compared vegetarians to non-vegetarians, showing that vegetarians have a better mortality rate. Pescatarians and ovo-lacto vegetarians had a 34% lower mortality rate than non-vegetarians, while standard vegetarians had a 24% lower mortality rate.
A vegetarian diet, if properly planned and carefully followed, can easily meet the human body’s nutritional needs. In fact, some estimates argue that more than 80% of cardiovascular events and issues can be prevented or mitigated through changes to diet and lifestyle. Like switching to a vegetarian diet!
So what’s the biggest barrier to this change? Many people just love eating meat! Thankfully, with LowFatLowCarb.com’s delicious vegetarian recipes, you’ll be loving your meals too much to worry about that!
WHAT FOODS SHOULD A
A lot of people assume that going vegetarian will automatically improve their health. Just because something’s vegetarian doesn’t mean that it’s good for you, though! Plenty of processed foods are totally free of animal products, but are still loaded with refined sugar, processed flour, oils, trans fats, sodium, and other harmful ingredients. JustAs with any diet, it’s important to focus on nutrient-rich foods free from additives.
Vegetarians should include a wide variety of whole, unprocessed foods including:
NUTS & SEEDS
(Lacto-ovo and ovo-vegetarians)
(lacto-ovo and lacto-vegetarians)
KEY VITAMINS FOR A
A vegetarian diet can be healthful and nutritionally sound if it includes essential nutrients. If you do choose to go vegetarian, it’s important to watch your intake of certain key macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals:
Meat’s not the only way you can get protein! There are also many plant-based sources. Foods such as whole grains, legumes, vegetables, seeds, and nuts are great vegetarian protein sources.
Vegetarians may be at a greater risk for iron deficiency. The richest sources of iron are red meat, liver, and egg yolk, but dried beans, lentils, leafy greens, brewer’s yeast, and dried fruits are great ways to get iron, too.
VITAMINS B-12 AND D
Vitamin B-12 is necessary to produce red blood cells and prevent anemia, and is almost exclusively found in animal products. As such, vegetarians might need a supplement. Vitamin D plays a critical role in bone health, and the body produces it when in direct sunlight. If you don’t get enough sunlight, you might need a supplement!
Calcium helps to build and maintain strong teeth and bones. Milk and dairy products are the greatest sources of calcium, so vegetarians who don’t consume dairy will need to find alternate sources. Dark green vegetables, and some legumes and beans are good plant sources of calcium.
Zinc is needed for growth and development, but when it comes from plant sources, it’s harder to absorb. As such, supplements may be required to make sure you’re getting enough zinc. Plant sources of zinc include whole grains, nuts, and legumes.
OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS
These essential fatty acids are important for heart health, and diets that pass on fish and eggs are generally low in active forms of omega-3 fatty acids. Vegetarians should consider fortified products, supplements, or both.
How to start a healthy
If you’ve decided that reducing your intake of meat and other animal products is right for you, it’s important to start gradually. Each week, reduce the amount of meat in your diet while increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables you consume.
If you’re having trouble finding high-quality, delicious vegetarian diet recipes, the resources at LowFatLowCarb.com are here to help! You’ll find a wide selection of easy vegetarian recipes to suit any taste or budget.
If you’re used to cooking with meat and other animal products, going vegetarian can feel overwhelming at first. Luckily, LowFatLowCarb.com has made it easier than ever to make healthy choices. We believe in the health benefits of fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats, and we take pride in using fresh, high-quality ingredients. All of our meals are as fast, simple, and healthy as possible, and include at least two cups of vegetables and five to eight ounces of protein to help you meet your daily nutritional goals.
If you’re looking for somewhere to start, we recommend the following vegetarian diet recipes:
How do I know if a vegetarian diet is right for me?
The best way to determine whether making any dietary change is right for you is to give it a try! Gradually eliminate meat, and any other foods you wish to reduce (ie. dairy, eggs etc.), and see how you feel! Be sure that you’re consuming nutritious, whole foods, rather than packaged and processed substitutions.
You should also allow yourself some time to adjust. Don’t make too many drastic changes all at once; take things step by step, and pay attention to the way your body reacts.
I’ve been eating meat all my life, how will I ever enjoy the benefits of a vegetarian diet?
If you truly don’t feel as though eliminating meat from your diet is right for you, you shouldn’t feel obligated to do so! However, if you’ve decided that a vegetarian diet is right for you, there are many ways to make the transition easier. Start by making your favourite recipes, just without meat. For example, make a vegetarian chili by leaving out the meat and adding black beans!
How do I make sure I get enough protein in my diet?
Since a vegetarian diet does not include any kind of meat, you should make sure that you’re getting adequate amounts of protein from other food sources. Beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and soy are great sources of protein! Greek yogurt and eggs are also great protein sources for those who wish to include these foods in their diet.
Is eating a vegetarian diet more expensive or time consuming than eating a traditional diet?
Since meat is often quite expensive, eating a vegetarian diet can actually have some cost saving benefits! If you spend some time browsing the recipes at LowFatLowCarb.com, you’ll see that vegetarian recipes are no more time-consuming than those you may be accustomed to cooking and eating now!