By Team Best Life – TheBestLife.com
Thinking about going vegetarian, or at least cutting back on your intake of meat, poultry and fish? There are some serious perks to adapting a plant-based diet—these foods supply minerals and vitamins while remaining low in fat and calories. They’re easy to digest and help keep your cholesterol low. (High cholesterol levels contribute to heart disease and other health issues.)
Phytochemicals and fiber found in plant foods can also help fight disease. In fact, compared to meat eaters, vegetarians are less likely to suffer from a variety of ailments, from diabetes to obesity to hypertension. A few more benefits: Going vegetarian can help protect the environment and may even lighten your wallet.
Before you go meat-free, there are a few things you should know:
There are many variations of vegetarianism.
A vegetarian diet consists of mainly plant-based foods, including vegetables, beans, grains, fruits, nuts and seeds. Within this category, there are a few different options. For instance, you could be a lacto-ovo vegetarian, someone who eats plant-based foods, dairy and eggs, or a lacto vegetarian, someone who eats dairy products but no eggs. If you find a vegetarian diet too limiting, you can try a semi-vegetarian diet, and eat meat, poultry and fish once in a while. Not strict enough? You can follow a vegan diet, and avoid anything that comes from an animal, including eggs, milk and cheese.
There are plenty of non-animal sources of important nutrients.
Meat, poultry and fish provide a lot of key nutrients, including protein, iron and zinc. But if you choose wisely, you can find these nutrients in non-animal foods. For instance, beans and soy are good sources of protein.
- You can get bone-building calcium from calcium-enriched soy, almond, rice or other non-dairy milk, tofu (if the ingredients include calcium sulfate) and fortified cereals.
- Get a dose of immune-boosting zinc from beans (white beans, kidney beans, and garbanzo beans), pumpkin seeds, wheat germ and fortified cereals.
- The best plant source of iron, which helps your blood carry oxygen throughout the body, is beans. While leafy greens like spinach contain the nutrient, it’s not well absorbed by the body.
- The one nutrient exception: vitamin B12, which keeps your nervous system functioning properly. It’s not found in plant foods, so vegetarians and especially vegans, must take a daily multivitamin.
It’s easy to get started.
- You could make a sandwich with falafel, hummus, tomatoes and eggplant on a whole-wheat pita.
- Try whipping up an Asian soup with vegetables, tofu and rice noodles, or even better, soba noodles, which are whole grain.
- Another option: Use corn tortillas to roll up some enchiladas with rice, beans and cheese and top it with guacamole and salsa. (To keep fat and calories in check, opt for low-fat protein sources and go easy on the cheese.)
The possibilities are endless. Once you start trying recipes, you’ll realize that reducing or eliminating meat, poultry and fish from your diet can be easy and delicious!