Sunday, January 24, 2010

Vegetarian Diet

It is much harder eating as a vegetarian than it is for those who eat meat. Vegetarians need to take those extra steps to make sure they are meeting their daily nutritional needs.

An ideal vegetarian diet consists mostly of plant-based foods. These foods include fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds. A vegetarian diet generally contains less fat and cholesterol and typically includes more fiber because they don't eat meat.

Alternative meat products such as tofu dogs and soy burgers simulate the taste and texture of meat, but have have less fat and fewer calories.

There are nutrients that a vegetarian diet needs to focus on and here are ways to get these nutrients from non-meat products:

-Protein: The body needs protein to maintain healthy skin, bones, muscles and organs. Eggs and other dairy products have convenient sources of protein. Other protein options include soy products, meat substitutes, seeds, whole grains, legumes, lentils, and nuts.

-Iron: Iron is a important for red blood cells. Good sources of iron include dried beans and peas, dark leafy green vegetables, lentils, enriched cereals, whole-grain products, and dried fruit. To help your body absorb non-animal sources of iron, eat foods rich in vitamin C such as strawberries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, cabbage and broccoli while you consume foods that contain iron.

-Vitamin B-12: Your body needs vitamin B-12 to produce red blood cells (like iron) and prevent anemia. Vitamin B-12 is found in animal products, including milk, eggs and cheese. Vegans can get vitamin B-12 from some enriched cereals, fortified soy products or by taking a supplement that contains Vitamin B-12.

-Calcium: This mineral helps to maintain strong teeth and bones. Low-fat dairy foods and dark green vegetables, such as spinach, turnip and collard greens, broccoli, and kale, are good sources of calcium. Tofu enriched with calcium, fortified soy milk, and fruit juices are other options.

-Zinc: This mineral is an essential component of many enzymes, plays a role in cell division, and in the formation of proteins. Good sources of zinc include whole grains, nuts, soy products, and wheat germ.

No matter what your situation is or how old you are, a well-planned vegetarian diet can still be healthy and nutritious. This includes children, teens, and pregnant (or breast-feeding) women. If you're wondering if a vegetarian diet is right for you, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian.

Vegetarian Food Pyramid

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