WHO recommends a vegetarian diet as one of the healthiest dietary options. Therefore, more and more people refuse meat in the name of health: it reduces the risk of developing certain types of cancer, atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease. But a lot of people become vegetarians also for ethical, environmental or religious reasons: they consider killing animals unethical or convinced that animal breeding is harmful to the environment.
What is vegetarianism
In a broad sense, vegetarianism is a diet of plant and dairy products when you refuse to eat food of animal origin. If we talk about what vegetarians do not eat, it is meat, poultry, fish and seafood. Mushrooms, although experts consider them a separate kingdom, usually get into the vegetarian menu as plant products. This is the diet recommended by WHO as one of the healthiest, but we should not confuse vegetarianism with its strict form: veganism.
Ovo-lacto-vegetarianism is the most common variant of vegetarian diet. It involves rejection of meat, but does not prohibit the consumption of eggs, milk and other dairy products. It is a liberal type of vegetarianism, and it is also comfortable from the point of view of social life: in the menu of most restaurants and cafes it is difficult to find dishes without meat, milk and eggs in the composition.
Lactovegetarianism is slightly stricter than the previous diet: it allows the consumption of food of plant origin or dairy products, but not meat or eggs. However, eggs can sometimes be included in the menu. But lactose vegetarians avoid the food for which they used slaughter products: gelatine, which is obtained from boiled cartilage, and rennet, which is produced from the stomachs of calves.
Veganism is the strictest form of vegetarianism, it excludes all products of animal origin from the diet. Not only meat, fish, seafood, but also eggs, milk and even honey. Since the main reason why people become vegans is an ethical issue, they usually do not eat meat and eggs, and do not wear clothes made of genuine leather, fur. Vegans give up natural silk and protest against the use of animals in the entertainment industry.
By switching to a vegetarian diet, many begin to eat more varied. The reason for this is partly because as long as you stick to the common menu, you don’t pay attention to many things and follow the path of least resistance: if you want to taste delicious, it’s enough to order a steak or buy shrimp. With the transition to vegetarianism, it becomes clear that meat needs to be replaced with something, and it turns out that there are many other delicious products on sale.
Vegetables contain almost no fats and proteins, but are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber. Parsley, cabbage, parsnip and onions contain phosphorus, which is necessary for human health. Salad, beet, cucumbers and tomatoes are rich in iron, while spinach is rich in calcium. Vegetarian diet allows the consumption of all vegetables:
Zucchinis and patissons.
Radish and celery.
Vegetables can be used to prepare salads, main courses, juices. This food is rich in carbohydrates, so you will not feel energy shortage. The record for calories is potatoes containing starch.
Grains, pulses, nuts
Grains and their derivatives are cereals, porridges, flakes, breakfast cereals, pasta and spaghetti, as well as pastries. Include in your diet not only rye, wheat, millet and barley, but also less popular grains. For example, diversify the menu with bulgur and couscous.
Legumes are a valuable source of vegetable protein. This category of products refers to:
Do not forget also about nuts – the source of proteins and fats. They can be added to desserts, salads, snacks and pastries. Nuts are eaten raw or fried in a pan. Do not limit yourself to walnuts and hazelnuts: there are also peanuts, cashews, pistachios, almonds, pine and coconuts.
Fruit and sweets
Fruits contain many vitamins and minerals, they are rich in carbohydrates and fiber. To get the daily rate of vitamin C, an apple, an orange and some strawberries are enough. It is not necessary to eat fruit without any delicacy, you can prepare fruit salads, fresh juices and desserts such as jam, jam, rakhat-lukum, candied fruits.
Dried fruits are a separate vegetarian food item. They are designed for long storage and contain an increased dose of nutrients.
Vegetarians can also eat other sweets without fruit, but if you are a strict vegan, make sure that the sweets do not contain gelatin, which is obtained from cartilage and tendons of animals.
It is milk and everything that is prepared on its basis:
Dairy and sour milk drinks.
In addition to the fact that it is an excellent source of protein, dairy food has other advantages: cottage cheese is a source of calcium, yogurts are good for digestion. If you want to completely eliminate animal food from your diet, pay attention to the content in rennet cheeses – it is the extract from the stomachs of calves. Look for products with enzymes of plant origin.
How to replace meat and fish
You can’t replace meat and fish with one thing, but you can make up your diet in such a way as to compensate all the useful substances that an ordinary person gets from meat. Most often, we are talking about protein: from what vegetarians do not eat, animal protein is the easiest to compensate.
The best protein products
Eggs. Ovo-lacto-vegetarians can include them in their diet, but if you have eaten meat all your life and for some reason decided to give it up, it is better not to go straight to vegan, but to change your diet gradually. In addition, egg white, in contrast to vegetable protein, is perfectly digested.
Fermented milk products. Another good source of protein, and calcium as well, is a substance that can “disappear” from the diet with the transition to a vegetarian diet.
Pulses: beans, soybeans, peas, lentils, chickpea. Legumes are rich not only in vegetable proteins, but also in vitamins and iron. Note that the same lentils load the gastrointestinal tract, so you should not put too much pressure on it, and iron and protein are not absorbed from legumes as well as from meat or eggs, but you can improve absorption if you eat legumes with vegetables.
Cereals: buckwheat, oatmeal, rice. Most of the vegetable protein in buckwheat, but in other cereals it is enough. If you do not give up milk, oatmeal on milk and omelette will serve as a good source of protein for the day.
Nuts and seeds. Not only are they rich in protein, but also in vitamins and amino acids.
If it is easy to make up for the lack of protein in your diet, then replacing meat as a source of iron is much harder. The problem is that gem iron is best absorbed – it is part of hemoglobin and animal food. Iron deficiency is fraught with the development of anemia, so it is worth including iron-rich pomegranates, legumes, cereals, dried fruits and cereals in the diet. But remember that all animal food as a source of iron they do not replace, so, especially if you are engaged in sports, it is worth taking iron as an additive or as part of vitamin complexes.
How to balance your vitamins
Vegetarian food is criticized for lack of certain vitamins and amino acids. First, animal protein is better absorbed, also due to the content in the meat of some fatty acids and amino acids. Secondly, calcium is also better absorbed from animal products. Finally, omega fatty acids and vitamin B12 are only contained in what vegetarians do not eat. What to do with these essential substances for life?
The first thing you should know is that vitamin B12 in its active form, in which the body can absorb it, is not contained in any food of plant origin. Neither seaweed nor other vegan-approved delicacies can make up for its deficiency. But the good news is that it is contained in eggs and milk, so lacto-vegetarians may not worry. But vegans will have to include B12-enriched food supplements in the menu: fortunately, they are synthesized by fermentation of bacteria, and animals are not used for production.
If you are on a vegan diet, control your blood and urinary methylmalonic acid levels. In the prices of diagnostic centers, it is indicated abbreviated: MMA. Testing the level of vitamin B12 may give a false result, because there is a risk of taking into account a healthless analog of this vitamin. It is these errors that have led to the myth about the content of B12 in algae.
If you sum it up: include eggs and milk in your diet, and if it is against your rules, then eat vitamin complexes. In principle, most of the vitamins you can get from plant food, B12 is the only exception.
To keep the calcium balance in your body, use poppy, sesame and nuts. But with Omega-3 and Omega-6 the situation is a bit more complicated: these are essential acids that we get only with food, and without them the nervous, immune, reproductive and cardiovascular system suffers.
Omega-6 is contained in sunflower oil, and there is no need to worry about the shortage of this acid. But Omega-3 is contained in fish, and if you refuse it, there is a threat of deficiency. The inclusion of linseed oil, hemp oil, nuts, wheat germ and cruciferous vegetables in the menu will help solve the problem. Spoons of oil and a handful of nuts a day are enough.
For breakfast you can recommend oatmeal porridge or muesli. If you eat milk, porridge can be cooked on milk, and if the vegan – pour boiling water and let stand for 5 minutes. In the prepared porridge add nuts, dried fruit, fresh fruit. You can also pour muesli or porridge with yogurt, kefir. Another version of vegetarian breakfast is dumplings with potatoes, mushrooms, cottage cheese or cherries.
For lunch it is useful to eat soup: bean or mushroom, and more exotic vegetable cream soup will do. In summer, you can prepare a powder.
Vegetarians can snack between meals with cheese sandwiches or hot egg sandwiches. It is prepared simply: cut a slice of bread in the middle, put it on the stove, break the egg inside and fry it on both sides. The finished sandwich can be sprinkled with grated cheese and herbs. Another option is cottage cheese with chopped fruit or salad with celery root.
For dinner you can eat mashed potatoes, vegetable cutlets and salad. Even the strictest vegetarian diet can be varied with salads: they are cooked with fresh vegetables, beans, cheese, adding eggs or fruits.
If you do not have time to cook
One of the advantages of the vegetarian diet is that it does not require long standing at the stove. Of course, there are complex vegetarian dishes, but fruits and vegetables, unlike meat, can be eaten raw. Kefir, yogurt and cheese also do not require long cooking. Therefore, to have a snack, you don’t need to flip through the cookbook: all you need to do is boil cereal in the steamer, buy fresh fruits and vegetables, fry the nuts, and the menu is ready for you soon.