VEGETARIAN NUTRITION: A BEGINNER’S GUIDE
As millions of healthy vegetarians prove, no one needs meat. Vegetarians and vegans easily get all the necessary nutrients they need - from Vitamin A to Zinc, it's all there in a varied, balanced diet, along with more fibre and complex starchy carbohydrates and less saturated fat. Nutritional authorities such as the American Dietetic Association and British Medical Association all agree that a well balanced vegetarian diet provides everything the body needs and can help to prevent illness too.
|Want an at-a-glance guide to veggie nutrition? The famous Veggie/vegan food chart is a laminated and colourful chart that can be pinned up on a kitchen wall and tells you which foods provide which essential nutrients. It’s available from Viva!’s online catalogue. Click here to see the catalogue and order online.|
The basic human nutritional requirements are protein, carbohydrates, fibre, vitamins and minerals. A vegetarian diet provides them all.
Protein is in practically every kind of food and it's almost impossible to eat less than you need. Vegetarians get their protein from a wide range of foodstuffs, such as soya products (milk, tofu [soya bean curd]), cereals (rice, pasta), pulses (baked beans, chick peas), some dairy products (milk, free range eggs) and nuts and seeds. Simply by eating a normal range of foods, our bodies are getting all the protein needed.
A veggie/vegan diet provides vitamins from fresh fruit and vegetables. Green leafy vegetables such as lettuce and other greens like broccoli and spinach supply Vitamins A, C and K as well as B vitamins. Vitamin E comes from staples like olive oil, tomatoes and nuts while fortified foods (like many soya milks and breakfast cereals) provide Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D.
Essential minerals like iron, calcium and zinc are available from many, many sources including soya products such as tofu and from the likes of rice, dried apricots and almonds.
As for complex carbohydrates, pasta, cereals and bread supply all we need and fibre comes as standard in a vegetarian diet.
The truth is, most people who eat meat don’t give a second thought to diet and nutrition and that’s one of the reasons that diet-related illnesses such as obesity, diabetes and many cancers are on the increase among meat-eaters and less prevalent among vegetarians. Being vegetarian doesn’t mean becoming obsessive about diet – but turning veggie gives many people the chance to actually think about what they eat and reverse some of the bad eating habits it is so easy to fall into. Vegetarians (and even vegans) don’t need to take supplements and certainly don’t need to pay more attention to nutrition than those who eat meat. In fact, your body will thank you for it.