When it comes to giving nutritional advice to vegetarians, most meat eaters consider themselves experts in the field. But usually this is not the case. In fact, very few are experts in this matter.
Protein (or protein) is what people who are going to become vegetarians worry about the most. Worried moms and dads say this type of phrase: “But what about squirrels?” as if the substance was as hard to find as diamonds. You don’t have to worry about the lack of protein. In fact, you’d rather be running from an angry hippo on your own street than finding a protein-starved vegetarian. Protein is needed because it promotes growth. It promotes wound healing and helps fight infections. The good news is that almost all foods, including fruits and vegetables, contain protein. Legumes are the best source of protein. These include chickpeas and lentils as well as all other members of the legume family such as beans and broad beans. But the best member of this family is soy, which is used in almost all types of vegetarian products, including tofu, veggie burgers and sausages, and soy milk. Protein is also found in cheese, nuts, seeds and even rice. Protein is made up of various amino acids, and soy products such as milk, cheese, and meat contain all of the amino acids. Other foods contain only some amino acids. By simply eating a variety of foods, along with a vegetarian or vegan diet, you can be sure that the different amino acids mix together to make a great protein. Any organization that controls the food industry in the world will agree with this statement. We don’t even need to eat all of these foods at once, because our body has the ability to accumulate and store amino acids until they are needed. In dietary guides published in 1995, the US government specifically noted the fact that vegetarians get all the protein they need. The Medical Association of Great Britain, one of the most famous medical organizations in the world, stated the same fact a few years earlier, in which it is absolutely right, since not a single case of protein deficiency among vegetarians has been found in the Western Hemisphere. That is why I say that you have nothing to worry about. Iron is another element that parents worry about, and with good reason. Iron is responsible for maintaining healthy red blood cells, which transport oxygen to all parts of the body. An iron deficiency, known as anemia, causes your body and brain to not get enough oxygen, leaving you feeling exhausted all the time. This is by far the biggest dietary problem in the UK, especially for women. Iron is found not only in meat, but also in all vegetarian foods, including legumes, wholemeal bread, leafy vegetables such as spinach, dried fruits, especially apricots and figs, and cocoa, which in turn justifies chocolate abuse. Iron is also found in pasta, pumpkin, sesame seeds, pistachios, cashews, cereals, and potatoes (boiled in their skins). Also, the Medical Association of Great Britain claims that cases of iron deficiency in the body in vegans and vegetarians are no more common than in meat eaters. Scientists from the University of Surrey have also observed the health of vegans in the UK. In a British nutrition magazine, they claim that vegan iron levels are at normal levels and that children raised exclusively on vegan foods were perfectly healthy. In fact, anemia often begins not because a person does not get enough iron from food, but because his body cannot absorb iron from food to a sufficient extent. Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron and luckily vegans and vegetarians get enough of this vitamin as it is found in most vegetables: potatoes, tomatoes, citrus fruits and leafy greens. This vitamin is even added to juice packs and instant potatoes. People who have recently become vegetarians often worry about the lack of calcium, but in vain. For someone who becomes a vegetarian, stops eating meat and fish, but consumes milk, cheese, butter and other dairy products, there is no difference because there is hardly any calcium in meat. Calcium contributes to the formation of healthy teeth and bones, as well as the work of muscles. Just like dairy products, calcium is found in nuts and seeds, legumes, leafy greens, and soy milk. This way vegans don’t feel left out either. A varied vegan and vegetarian diet includes all the essential vitamins and minerals, so don’t let anyone tell you that if you stop eating meat, you’ll be deficient. Each vitamin and mineral has a function and most of them can be stored by the body, so it is not necessary to eat them every day, but vitamin C is an exception. It was the lack of vitamin C that led sailors to die during long sea voyages (still on sailing ships) from a disease called scurvy, this happened when the ship ran out of fresh fruits and vegetables. In those days, there were no freezers yet, and sailors ate the mold that appears on bread in order to get at least some plant food. Despite the fact that vitamin C is found in almost all fresh vegetables, it should be part of the daily diet. Technically, you need very little vitamin C every day to stay healthy, but the more we learn about vitamin C, the more important it becomes in the fight against disease. So my advice would be to eat as many fresh fruits and vegetables as possible. One vitamin that vegans and vegetarians are often asked about is vitamin B12, which is produced by microorganisms in the soil. Our ancestors got this vitamin by eating vegetables with the remains of the earth on them. Nowadays, vegetarians get this vitamin from dairy products, while vegans get the full amount from foods like soy milk and most grains. Yeast extract is also a good source of vitamin B12. Our liver has the ability to store this vitamin for many years, and our body needs one millionth of a gram of vitamin B12 per day. So you can eat a lot of foods containing this vitamin in one day and not worry about its lack for a long time. What else can you lack if you stop eating meat? It’s nothing. To begin with, it must be said that there is no vitamin C in meat and little or no vitamins D, K and E. Meat does not contain beta-carotene, which our body converts into vitamin A, which protects us from disease. In fact, there are very few vitamins in meat. By eating a variety of fruits, vegetables and legumes, you can get all the necessary vitamins, just do not need to lean heavily on chips and sweets. Almost no one talks about carbohydrates, as if their presence or absence does not matter. But in fact they are very important. Complex carbohydrates are found in grains, including bread, pasta, barley, rice and rye, as well as in root vegetables – sweet potatoes and potatoes. These carbohydrates are of great importance because they feed the body with vital energy. Many people still think that eating a carbohydrate complex leads to weight gain, and try to eat as few carbohydrate-containing foods as possible. Big mistake! Any health organization in any country, as well as the World Health Organization, claims that we should eat as many of these foods as possible. Products containing a carbohydrate complex should make up the majority of our diet. But the most interesting thing is that it is not in the meat. Fats and oils also play an important role. They contribute to the restoration of damaged tissues, produce some hormones and transport vitamins. Everyone needs small amounts of fats and oils, and they’re mostly found in seeds and nuts and some vegetables like avocados—they don’t originally come in bottles or packs. But what your body does not need at all are saturated fats, which are found in animal products, and the well-known cholesterol, one of the names of a large number of different fats. And now we are faced with the most important question – what really is a balanced diet? The simple answer is that in order to eat a balanced diet, you need to eat as much variety as possible. Including carbohydrates and as many different vegetables and fruits as possible. Try various types of legumes, dried fruits, mushrooms and special foods for vegetarians. You do not need to eat all these foods at one meal and not even every day, just make your menu varied. But there is one golden rule: the more varied your food, the better your diet, this also applies to meat eaters. It is also true that the less processed foods are, the more nutrients they contain. Thus, wholemeal bread and husked rice, for example, contain more vitamins, minerals, and fibers than white bread and rice. You can also eat wholemeal pasta and pasta, but personally I would rather eat cardboard than these products. It has been a long time, but now people are finally starting to understand a little that a vegan or vegetarian diet is much better for health than a meat diet.