I became a vegetarian in college for largely ethical reasons- the treatment of animals, the scarcity of land on which pastured grazing animals could live, our inability to feed the whole world with such high quality meat, as well as the health reasons- more energy, lighter energetics of food, less animal fat and saturated fat.
I still feel my best on a diet with less meat. But I now understand the success of a vegetarian diet will vary dramatically from individual to individual. This can be based on a number of things, including:
– Genetic predisposition and background
– Blood type
– Metabolic testing
– Ability to tolerate and digest beans, soy and grains
– Closely monitoring energy levels related to particular foods
A vegetarian diet has been has been tied to the prevention of heart disease, and cancer. Some of the benefits include reduced constipation, less exposure to toxicity in food such as food borne illnesses and antibiotics, increased antioxidants, and even better athletic performance for some individuals.
However, there is also a growing body of literature revealing the importance of saturated fats, even those from animal products. The bottom line is that there is no one diet that works for everyone.
For those who are vegetarian or want to be, here are five ways to ensure that you are doing vegetarianism well:
1) Pay attention to calcium: Dairy eaters can use yogurt, non-dairy eaters should incorporate lots of greens, almonds, tofu, figs, white beans, etc
2) Use a B12 supplement: Found in animal foods, B12 is required for proper red blood cell formation, neurological function, and DNA synthesis
3) Get Vitamin D: Proper amounts can be attained from limited sun exposure daily
4) Incorporate Iron: Ensure your diet includes iron rich foods, such as soybeans, lentils, spinach, tofu, swiss chard, black beans, and quinoa
5) Include Zinc: No single plant food is high in zinc, but good amounts can be found by combining whole foods such as nuts, seeds, whole grains, and leafy greens
If you can happily eat beans, lentils, quinoa, brown rice, nuts, seeds and generous amounts of greens daily, you can meet all of your nutrition requirements as a healthy, happy vegetarian.
Likewise, if you cut out meat only to replace it with bagels and cream cheese, peanut butter sandwiches, pasta and ice cream you would be lacking some crucial nutrients for health.
By incorporating these five key nutrients, you can eat a diet that is good for the earth and good for your body.