Did you know that vegetarian diets are associated with a number of health benefits such as weight loss, a reduced cancer risk, improved blood sugar, and even better heart health?
A well-rounded vegetarian diet can be very healthy and nutritious. However, it may also increase your risk of certain nutritional deficiencies.
Even if you enjoy eating meat and have no plan to stop, this article is still for you, as you can still incorporate many healthy vegetarian dishes or foods into your current diet.
Let’s talk about starting a vegetarian diet.
Starting a Vegetarian Diet
Can Humans Survive Without Eating Meat?
The reality is nutritionally and biologically, you can live without eating meat or animal products.
There is no physical reason for humans to eat animal products. Cutting animal products from your diet can be healthier for you, the animals, and the environment. It is estimated that about 18% of the world’s population currently eats a vegetarian diet.
What are the Side Effects of Going Vegetarian?
If meat is simply removed and not substituted, the consumer is at risk of iron or B12 deficiency, anemia, and muscle wasting.
For this reason, vegetarians have an increased risk of vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause fatigue, memory problems and numbness.
Continued B12 deficiency can lead to Megaloblastic Anemia, a condition caused by having low red blood cell count.
How Do I Get Enough B12 Without Meat
Non-meat foods containing B12 include eggs and dairy products, such as milk and cheese. Vegans have a more limited list of options as they normally don’t consume any animal products. Fortified foods, or those with added synthetic vitamin B12, are a great source.
There are natural foods such as nutritional yeast, yeast spreads, some mushrooms and some algae that also contain vitamin B12.
Multivitamins and supplements are another option to increase your intake and compensate for potential deficiencies.
To replace the protein provided by meat in your diet, include a variety of protein-rich plant foods like nuts, seeds, legumes, tempeh, or tofu.
Tofu is a classic meat alternative, and has been one of the basic sources of nutrition in Asia for centuries.
What Foods are High in B12 For Vegetarians?
List of B-12 Foods for Vegetarians:
- Low-fat milk.
- Fortified plant-based milk (contains synthetic B12).
- Fortified cereals.
- Nutritional yeast.
Are Two Eggs a Day Enough B12?
Research has shown that egg yolks have higher levels of vitamin B12 than egg whites. The B12 in egg yolks is also easier to absorb. Two large eggs (100 grams) supply about 46% of the recommended DV for vitamin B12.
What Do Vegetarians Eat Instead of Meat?
Some Meat Alternatives Growing in Popularity:
- Wheat protein.
- Black beans.
- Soy protein.
- Lupin protein.
- Green spelt.
- Oat flakes.
What Can I Eat Today as a Vegetarian?
Example of What a Vegetarian Could Eat for a Day:
Breakfast: Smoothie of nut butter and almond milk with kale, berries, and bananas.
Lunch: Red lentil veggie burger, with avocado salad.
Dinner: Flatbread with grilled garden vegetables.
We’ve seen that cutting out meat and animal-based products can increase your risk of nutritional deficiencies.
But as we’ve also seen a well-balanced diet, possibly alongside supplements, can help prevent nutrient deficiencies.
To ensure you’re getting enough nutrition, remember to include a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, along with consuming enough protein or fortified foods.
Personally I began eating less meat years ago, and now am at the point of trying to switch to a vegetarian-only diet.
My reasons are mostly personal, not really health-related; basically a love of all creatures and animals made me start to feel guilty to be honest.
Please let me know any advice you have for me on this journey, or experiences that you have around vegetarianism or veganism, and thanks for reading.
This has been meant as a simple guide, for medical and dietary advice please consult a medical doctor or dietary professional.