Some benefits of a meatless diet can include:
- Lower blood pressure
- Lower cholesterol levels
- Lower intake of saturated fats
- Decreased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers
Whether you’ve been veggie your whole life or would like to experiment for a few weeks, it is important to get the diet right. Since some nutrients found in animal products are hard to find in other foods, it can be difficult to consume all the vitamins, minerals and macronutrients necessary to maintain a healthy body, but with a plan of action, it is very much possible.
What nutrients am I missing by not eating meat and what foods should I eat to replace them?
A vegetarian diet, just like a non-vegetarian diet, should include a diverse mix of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and proteins. Here are a few of the nutrients you’ll need to find replacements for:
An important nutrient for almost every part of the body, it keeps skin, bones, muscles and organs healthy. Meat contains a lot of protein, and that’s why it is important to include a variety of protein rich plant foods, such as seeds, legumes, tofu, tempeh or nuts. Depending on just how vegetarian you are making your diet, you can also boost your protein intake with eggs and dairy.
Iron plays an important role in the production of red blood cells – cells that help carry oxygen throughout the body. Males need 8.7 mg a day whilst women need 14.8 mg per day. The best sources include pulses, dried fruit, leafy greens, wholemeal bread and eggs.
Helps build strong bones and prevent osteoporosis – a disease that weakens bones and can cause breaks. In older people, it is particularly important to include in the diet. For the most part, dairy is the best source of calcium, but if you choose not to include this in your diet, then soybeans, almonds and dark leafy greens are excellent alternatives.
This vitamin plays an important role in bone health and helps the body absorb calcium. By getting exposure of 10 minutes to the sun a few times during the week, your body produces vitamin D. However, if you live somewhere where you’re not exposed to the sun this much, then you can get this vitamin from soymilk or rice milk.
Helps to produce red blood cells and prevent anemia. The issue is it’s only found naturally in animal products. For those that still include it in their diet, eating eggs and dairy products help you absorb this vitamin. For those hoping to avoid all animal products completely, soy milk, fortified yeast extracts such as Marmite, or fortified breakfast cereals are a suitable alternative.
Omega-3 fatty acids:
Primarily found in oily fish, omega-3 fatty acids can maintain a healthy heart and reduce the risk of heart disease as well as improve brain function. Flaxseed meal and oil are two good sources as well as rapeseed, tofu and walnuts.