Whether you want to go full-on vegetarian or just want to implement more vegetarian days into your week, here’s some information that will help you get started.
Proteins are made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks of all proteins. These amino acids are present in different combinations in the body. A complete protein consists of all the essential amino acids. The essential amino acids are those which the body cannot make on its own and have to be supplemented through diet.
There are 9 amino acids that are essential to your body.
Some of the most common forms of complete protein (all 9 amino acids together) are derived from animals like poultry, fish, seafood, shellfish, meat, cheese, milk and eggs.
These are 5 non-animal sources that provide a complete protein:
- Blue green algae (spirulina and chlorella)
- Soybeans (tofu, tempeh, soy milk)
You can eat a combination of foods to create a complete protein. You need to combine a food item that lacks 1 or more amino acids with another food that contains the missing and essential amino acids, and voila, you get a complete protein!
Food combining for complete protein does not need to take place at one meal. Food combining to ensure you are getting all of the essential amino acids needs to take place within a 24 hour period. If you eat a variety of foods throughout the day, you will be guaranteed that you will consume your daily required complete protein.
Examples of vegetarian complete protein combinations include:
Grains and legumes
- Beans and rice
- Pasta and peas
Nuts / seeds and legumes
- Hummus (chickpeas and tahini)
- Lentils and almonds
Nuts and grains
- Granola (contains oats) and mixed nuts
- Nut butter ( almond butter, walnut butter, or cashew butter) and whole grain crackers
#2 EAT A VARIETY OF FOODS
Don’t eat the same things every day.
Eating a variety of foods each day is essential to get all the nutrients you need. Each food contains a variety of minerals, vitamins, and enzymes for optimal health. No one food can supply everything you need.
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B12 is primarily found in animal products (meat, eggs, dairy including cheese). Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that helps keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and helps make DNA. A B12 deficiency can lead to anemia, nervous system damage, fatigue and depression.
Vegan sources of B12 include soy and nutritional yeast.
Although rates of B12 deficiency are much higher in vegetarians and vegans than in omnivores, that doesn’t mean it’s rare in omnivores. According to studies, approximately 1 in 20 omnivores are B12 deficient.
It is important to supplement daily with B12, especially for vegetarians or vegans.
#4 CHOOSING ETHICAL ANIMAL PRODUCTS
Give some thought to where your eggs, cheese, and yogurt come from. By choosing animal products that are ethically produced, you are showing concern for the welfare of animals and concern for the environment. As well, you don’t want to eat factory farmed animal products because the unnatural feeds, hormones, and excessive quantities of antibiotics used on these animals, which you end up eating, increases your risk for chronic disease, obesity, and drug-resistant bacteria. Choosing organic is best.
Iron is an essential nutrient because it is a central part of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in the blood.
Dried beans and dark green leafy vegetables are especially good sources of iron, even better on a per calorie basis than meat. Iron absorption is increased by eating foods containing vitamin C along with foods containing iron.
Here are 12 plant-based foods with some of the highest iron levels:
Spirulina (1 tsp): 5 mg
Cooked soybeans (1/2 cup): 4.4 mg
Pumpkin seeds (1 ounce): 4.2 mg
Quinoa (4 ounces): 4 mg
Blackstrap molasses (1 tbsp): 4 mg
Tomato paste (4 ounces): 3.9 mg
White beans (1/2 cup) 3.9 mg
Cooked spinach (1/2 cup): 3.2 mg
Dried peaches (6 halves): 3.1 mg
Prune juice (8 ounces): 3 mg
Lentils (4 ounces): 3 mg
#6 MAKING THE RIGHT FOOD CHOICES
A vegetarian diet doesn’t necessarily mean a healthy diet. It’s best to avoid white breads, white rice and white pastas. Also, stay away from things like veggie hot dogs, patties and bacon. These are not made from vegetables. They are made from processed soy, artificial ingredients and flavors. You need to stick with whole foods ~ legumes, fruits, vegetables, lentils, brown rice, etc. You will get everything you need if you eat fresh, un-processed, real whole food!!!
The thought of going full-on vegetarian may intimidate you or maybe it’s just not something you want to do. No problem. But hey, why not try one day a week! The internet is a huge resource for recipes! I just love trying new recipes and I bet you will too!