I talked yesterday about how I am interested in exploring being a vegetarian, and that I am going to be spending one day every week in February not eating meat. I have been doing a little research and this is what I have come up with.
Naturally, the thing I am most concerned about in relation to all this is how it will affect my health. So, like a good internet-loving American I consulted the most trusted name in medicine: WebMD.
The article I found on Vegetarian Diets talks about some of the most important foods that vegetarians must intentionally incorporate into their diets that many meat-eaters have an easier time with.
Here are some ways for vegetarians to incorporate these nutrients into their diets:
- Protein: Is found in tofu, tempeh, veggie burgers, beans, nuts and nut butters, eggs.
- Iron: Eggs, fortified breakfast cereals, soy-based foods, dried prunes and apricots, nuts beans, legumes, whole-wheat bread, and baked potatoes are rich in iron.
- Calcium, which builds bone, is plentiful in cheese, yogurt and milk. Ovo-vegetarians and vegans can get it in soy products, legumes, almonds, sesame tahini, calcium-fortified orange juice, and dark, leafy vegetables like collard greens and bok choy.
- Zinc, which boosts the immune system, is ample in soybeans and soymilk, veggie "meats," eggs, cheese and yogurt, fortified breakfast cereals, nuts, breads, mushrooms, and peas. Wheat germ and pumpkin seeds also have high zinc content
- Vitamin B12: Soy-based beverages, some breakfast cereals, and fortified veggie "meats" are all good sources of vitamin B12
- Riboflavin: Almonds, fortified cereals, cow's milk, yogurt, mushrooms, and soy milk are riboflavin-rich foods.
- Linolenic acid (omega-6): Canola oil and flaxseeds and flaxseed oil contain linolenic acid, along with soybeans, tofu, walnuts, and walnut oil.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Cold-water fish, such as salmon and mackerel, are high in omega-3 fatty acids For vegetarians who do not eat fish, good sources of omega-3s are flaxseed, walnut, soy and canola oils. Supplements are fine, too.
That all sounds fairly painless. My soy milk, eggs, cheese and hummus intake will take care of some of this so I need to look for ways to incorporate Omega-6 and Omega-3.
Tofu Tip: “Tofu can be substituted for the same amount of meat, poultry or fish in almost any recipe,” says Sass. Firm tofu works best because it holds its shape when you sauté it or grill it.
Lentils Tip: Lentil soup is just the beginning. Add lentils to vegetable stews, chilis or casseroles. Toss them with red onions and vinaigrette. Stir them into curries; cook them with carrots. Experiment with different varieties—red lentils (right) cook up very fast and can be turned into bright purées.
Beans Tip: It was once thought that to get a complete protein, you needed to combine beans with grains (rice, pasta, bread) at the same meal. “Now we know you just have to eat them during the same day,” Sass says. Toss beans and vegetables with whole wheat pasta; make soups and chilis with several varieties; add a sprinkling to grain salads. And for a different taste treat, look for canned heirloom varieties.
Nuts Tip: Different nuts give you different nutrients. For example, a half cup of almonds provides about four times as much fiber as the same amount of cashews. Cashews, however, contain about twice as much iron and zinc as almost any other nut. Pecans and walnuts tend to land right in the middle for most nut nutrients—potassium, magnesium, zinc and calcium. Sprinkle them in salads, or keep a bag of mixed nuts in your desk or backpack. Garnish smooth soups with crunchy whole nuts, stir chopped nuts into muffins and add crushed nuts to pie crust.
Grains Tip: Because different grains provide different nutrients, vary the types you eat. “It’s easy to get into a rut of, say, just making brown rice all the time. It’s better to mix up the grains you eat,
including oatmeal, bulgur, wild rice, whole rye and pumpernickel breads,” says Sass. Also try some of the ancient grains—spelt, farro, kamut—which are now sold at most whole foods markets.
Leafy Greens Tip: Always try to eat iron-rich foods with foods that are high in vitamin C because the C helps your body absorb the iron. With dark leafy greens, this comes naturally—just toss them into salads with yellow and red peppers, tomatoes, carrots, mandarin oranges or any citrus. Or if you prefer your veggies cooked, sauté a couple of cups of greens in some seasoned olive oil
with sweet peppers, garlic and onion.
Seaweeds Tip: Add chopped dulse to salads or sandwiches, sauté it with other vegetables or use it in soups. Use nori sheets as the wrappers for vegetarian sushi. Toast kelp, and crumble it on pasta or rice, or add it to noodle soups. Browse through Japanese or Korean markets to find seaweeds to sample.
Dried Fruits Tip: Sprinkle them on salads, use in chutneys, stir into puréed squash and sweet potatoes, or blend with nuts and seeds to make your own favorite snack mix. Chopped up, dried fruits make healthful additions to puddings, fruit-based pie fillings, oat bars, cookies, hot and cold
cereals—you name it.
Last but not least in my initial Vegetarian Google adventure comes the Vegetarian Times' Vegetarian Starter Kit. However, I just started reading this. Expect more to come soon.