Becoming Vegetarian

Becoming a vegetarian is gaining popularity.

There are plenty of reasons people are choosing a vegetarian lifestyle these days, and it not just to do with health.  Actually its pretty easy to have an unhealthy vegetarian diet, and that is what this article is about; helping beginners to vegetarian diets steer clear of unhealthy high fat diet options and getinto the bounty of healthful foods that vegetarian lifestyles promote.  If you don’t believe that a vegetarian diet might be unhealthy well think about it – potato chips and donuts are vegetarian right? So are white bread, cheese pizza and soda.   But the good news is that becoming a healthy vegetarian is not as hard as you might think.  It involves a little bit of knowledge about protein sources that don’t include meat or other animal products, and the decision to learn a few different recipes.

A good place to begin in your vegetarian life is to determine the real reasons you want to be vegetarian.   There are different kinds of vegetarian diets and your sources of protein will differ according to how restrictive you want to be.   It can be challenging in the early days of your new diet and lifestyle choice when you run into temptation.  So its important to figure out what your priorities are so that you can get some inspiration and support from those who are likeminded in your efforts.  If you are avoiding flesh only – as my daughter does for example – then protein will not be difficult at all, but if you avoid all animal products and decide to adopt a vegan lifestyle then getting proper protein will take just a little bit more effort.

If you are making the choice to be a vegetarian because you want to be healthier, then you might be just fine with the idea of eating milk and eggs.  Cheese can be a bit more of a problem because it usually made with rennet which is from animals unless you specifically get the cheese that is suitable for vegetarians.  Some people are so offended by the common day practices of animal farming that they won’t consume any animal product at all, for others; it’s a religious belief.

The most biologically useable forms of protein come from animal products.

All flesh, which includes fish as well as white meat or red meat; eggs, milk and cheese and milk products like yogurt are called complete proteins.   What this means is that your body can get all the different types of proteins it needs from that single food. Foods from plants that have proteins include nuts and seeds, grains like wheat or rice, legumes like beans and pulses like lentils.  The proteins in these foods are usually not complete proteins and you can’t eat just one kind and get all that you need from it.  You have to have a mixture.  There are a couple of exceptions to the plant rule and they are soy bean (think tofu) and quinoa.  Now quinoa is a funny word which sounds like keen-wah but is spelled quinoa.  It’s a small round grain and can easily take the place of rice in meal.   It’s a very high nutritional value.

Now what about your health?

Apart from having a better conscience, one of the main driving forces for choosing to become vegetarian is because there’s plenty of research to show that there is less heart disease, cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure with vegetarian diets.  Actually if you adopt a healthy vegan diet, there is some evidence that disease reversal can occur.  Mind you, this isn’t a vacuum of just diet, it does require some daily exercise but that’s a divergence from this post.

Those that eat a healthy vegetarian diet have a greater chance to live a longer and healthier life.   Not only does a vege diet reduce saturated and fat and cholesterol, but it increases quite a number of nutrients, especially folate, magnesium, potassium, and the antioxidants vitamin A, C and E.  You need to pay a bit more attention to some B vitamins though.  And to do this, you need to make sure that you aren’t eating white bread, white rice or pasta, but that your choices are whole grains.

If you are thinking about becoming a vegetarian, you might want to consider how to best set yourself up for success.  Can you do it cold turkey (no pun intended), or should you move gradually to a place where you are eating less flesh, maybe giving up red meat first and then white meat and then fish.   Just by the way, it is possible to be a vegetarian that eats fish its called being a pesco vegetarian.  I’ve never quite understood it, but it’s not a land dwelling animal, that’s the only difference I can see.

It’s probably better for most of us to transition into a vegetarian diet to become accustomed to new foods and new preparation routines.   If that’s not what you want to do, then it pays to have some easy meals you can just put together without much effort.  Baked beans on toast, tortillas and beans, even rice and milk, or soymilk.

One of the benefits of being vegetarian is that is it said to make it easier to maintain a proper weight.  I don’t know about that. It might be true for some, but the fact is that if you eat crackers and cheese – a lot- you will put on weight.  It’s really important to develop balanced eating habits and not just go with the really easy vegetarian options.   If you do that by including plenty of low fat choices such as lentils, beans, brown rice as well as some healthy nuts then you will do much better.  Even though nuts are high in fat, about a quarter of a cup per day is good for you.  It’s the healthy fat.

Now one benefit that will definitely come your way with a healthy and balanced vegetarian diet is more energy, better complexion and a healthy conscience too.

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