What foods do you visualize when you hear the word “vegetarian”? Is it broccoli, nuts or beans?
Vegetarian and Vegan Defined
A vegetarian is someone who lives on a diet of grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits with, or without, the use of dairy products and eggs.
A vegetarian does not eat meat, poultry, game fish, shellfish or crustacea, or by-products of slaughter.
Source: Vegetarian Society
Vegan is a plant-based diet avoiding all animal foods such as meat, dairy, eggs and honey – as well as products like leather and any tested on animals.
Source: The Vegan Society
Benefits of Vegetarianism
There are so many positive and healthy reasons to be a vegetarian. Whether you decide to go all in and quit meat entirely or continue eating dairy and eggs, your body will thank you for the following benefits:
- Longevity. Vegetarians have been found to enjoy longer and healthier lives compared to meat eaters.
- Fights Disease. Plant-based foods can reduce your risk to chronic diseases like: heart disease, hypertension, obesity, cancer and diabetes.
- Fitness. More active people are focusing on higher protein intake, high carbohydrates, low-fat, vitamin and mineral-rich vegetarian diet.
- Animal Rights. Animal welfare is improved when you choose to stop eating meat.
- Save the Planet. Plant-based foods require less energy and farmland and is better for the planet.
- Toxicity. Plant sources are safer than animal foods. Commercial meat, poultry and seafood may contain chemical toxins, bacteria, antibiotics and parasites.
When you go meatless your body no longer gets an adequate supply of these key nutrients: protein, iron, calcium, zinc, vitamin B12 and vitamin D. Here are some foods loaded with these nutrients:
Leafy Greens contain protein, iron, cancer-fighting antioxidants, folic acid, calcium and vitamin A. Top picks are kale, broccoli, spinach, Swiss chard and collards. Toss them in a salad with vitamin C rich foods like red peppers, mandarin oranges and tomatoes for better iron absorption.
Dried Fruits contain iron, minerals and vitamins. Add nuts for a protein-rich snack mix. Some of my favorites are cranberries, dates, raisins, pineapple and figs. Sprinkle them on salads, oatmeal and pudding.
Nuts are a quick source of protein, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, iron and zinc. My favorites are almonds and cashews as a snack, on salads and in my blender smoothies. Other healthy choices are pecans, peanuts, walnuts, Brazil and macadamias. Nuts are known for being high-calorie and high-fat so eat in moderation.
Beans and Lentils are an excellent source of protein, soluble fiber, vitamin B and folate. Lentils tend to be less gassy than beans. Add both to soups, curry, salads,
Tempeh and Tofu contains protein and fiber. My preference is tempeh more for the taste, consistency and less processed than tofu. Tempeh also contains more calories, protein and fiber. Add to soups, casseroles and pasta.
What are your favorite meatless foods? I’d love to hear from you!
My Vegetarian Journey…
started back in high school. I went completely meatless for 5 years then slowly drifted back to eating meat. Why? I was working full-time, attending college part-time and mostly was hanging with a different group of friends that were not vegetarians. It would be years before I realized that being a vegetarian is for your health more than what others chose to eat. My mom even became a vegetarian when her cholesterol spiked out of control to 300. She said, “No medications for me, I will eat a plant-based diet.” She continued on this healthy journey the rest of her life dropping her cholesterol naturally down to 200. Now I continue to focus on healthy food choices because my body is worth it!
Cheers to a Healthy Life!
Photo credit: Photodune