Subject to contrary belief it is possible to maintain a healthy lifestyle on a vegetarian diet. Eating the vegetarian way is not as difficult as you would think and it is quite easy to get all the necessary proteins and amino acids needed.
Why Amino Acids?
Amino acids are important because they help to repair body cells. The human body is not able to produce all of the amino acids needed to remain healthy so it is important to make sure you eat foods that contain plenty of nutrients. There are some types of food that include all of the essential amino acids also known as complete proteins and although these traditionally come from meat, fish and poultry they can also be obtained through cheese, eggs and milk.
Tip: Aim to eat 2-3 servings of proteins per day such as one egg or one ounce of cheese.
If you are lacking in amino acids you may begin to suffer from fatigue, nausea and/or anemia. Muscle mass may begin to decline and you could even experience reproductive disorders. If you are struggling to include all of the required amino acids in your diet you should speak to your doctor about supplements.
Proteins are built from amino acids and on a vegetarian diet it is important to get a variety of protein type foods to ensure you are getting a good combination of these amino acids. Protein aids digestion and helps to build up muscle tissue and the immune system.
As we have discovered, food which is high in protein includes eggs and dairy products such as milk, cheese and yoghurt which also provides a good source of calcium and vitamins A and B12. You can also eat other protein foods such as tofu, textured vegetable protein and/or Quorn which is readily available at stores and provides tasty and healthy meal options.
Tip: Whilst it is important to get enough protein in your diet it is essential not to have too much. As with any type of diet plan, balance is the key.
Other Foods to Include
As a vegetarian you should also ensure you are getting plenty of beans, pulses, lentils and peas which are an excellent source of low-fat protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Each portion counts as one of your 5-a-day too.
Include starchy foods for energy, nutrients and fiber such as potatoes, breads, rice, pasta and cereal. Don’t neglect yourself of treats either and allow yourself small portions of fats and sugars contained in salad dressings and desserts.
Iron and Vitamins
Many vegetarians struggle to get enough iron in their diet and so should eat plenty of fruit and vegetables like apricots, spinach, olives, broccoli, figs and garlic. There are plenty of other vegetables high in iron and these usually tend to be the leafy, green variety.
Vitamin B12 is important as it helps growth, repair and general health and can be found naturally in eggs and dairy such as milk and cheese.
Tip: Snack on nuts such as peanuts, cashews, almonds and walnuts but because nuts are high in fat don’t eat too many per day.
A healthy vegetarian diet doesn’t have to be boring. Eat a well-balanced diet and include some treats so you don’t get bored whilst still getting all the vitamins, proteins and nutrients needed for healthy living.