As we know, vegetarianism means abstaining from eating the flesh of animals: meat, fish, seafood … Currently, around 5% of the world’s population is vegetarian (1).
There are many reasons why people make this choice:
But as with any diet, it’s best to be properly informed before you make the change – because when you give up meat and fish, you can quickly find yourself lacking in certain nutrients...
Let’s remember that meat is a major source of proteins. These macromolecules are essential in order for the body to function properly, for muscle development and for immunity (5).
To avoid falling short on proteins, make sure you eat plenty of starchy foods which in a vegetarian diet means eating:
Ideally, try to combine both these types of starch in the same meal in order to maximise your protein intake. You could, for example, opt for:
This kind of combination will provide you with a good variety of amino acids. Pulses, for example, are a source of lysine, which is absent in grain proteins, while conversely, grains provide methionine which is missing from proteins in pulses.
Another way of ensuring an adequate protein intake is to include eggs in your diet, as both the white and the yolk are good sources of protein.
Dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt are also high in protein. Sports enthusiasts keen to gain muscle mass can also benefit from the significant protein content of whey, a by-product of cheesemaking (for example, Undenatured Whey Protein Isolate).
Other foods that contain a substantial level of protein include quinoa, tofu (bean curd), seitan, tempeh, almonds, mushrooms, whole wheat pasta, wholegrain rice, nuts, hemp seeds and chia seeds ...
Secondly, it’s important to ensure you get enough iron (especially women and children) (6). As we know, this important trace-element ensures the transport of oxygen in the blood. Fatigue, a general lack of energy and dizziness are all symptoms of a lack of iron.
Among the best sources of iron are red and white meat and seafood, but excellent vegetarian alternatives include pulses, dried fruit and oilseeds (sesame seeds, cashew nuts, almonds ...) (7).
There are also easily-absorbed iron supplements available which can help reduce the risk of anaemia in vegetarians. The form iron bisglycinate is particularly well-tolerated by the body, and can be found, for example, in the supplement Iron Bisglycinate.
Note: do not take iron supplements unless you’re sure you’re deficient – ie, it has been confirmed by a blood test , as taking iron when you don’t need to has a pro-oxidant effect.
In addition, a meat-free diet can result in a lack of vitamin B12, or cobalamin, the one vitamin that is only found in animal-source foods.
While it’s true that B12 is found in eggs, milk and cheese, levels are much lower than those in meat, and vegetarians therefore face a genuine risk of deficiency (8).
And a lack of B12 has significant health implications: nerve, digestive and visual disorders, as well as severe fatigue … (9) To prevent such problems, take methylcobalamin, an active form of vitamin B12 and the best form for the body (try, for example, the supplement Methylcobalamine).
Non-vegetarians normally obtain omega-3 fatty acids from oily fish such as salmon and tuna. Good vegetarian alternatives include:
Last but not least, a vegetarian diet can lead to:
There are certain natural, nutrient-rich substances which can significantly help you maintain nutritional balance.
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