Can you be Vegetarian and Healthy?
A growing number of people around the world are choosing to leave meat out of their diet, for a variety of reasons. Missing out on one of the major food groups does not have to be an unhealthy choice, though you do need to be aware of what nutrients you may be missing out on and how you can get these nutrients through non-meat sources.
There are three main types of vegetarians
- Lacto-Ovo Vegetarians - those who avoid meat but eat eggs and dairy products
- Lacto-vegetarians - those who avoid meat and eggs but eat dairy products
- Vegan - those who only eat plant food
Protein is essential for many body processes including tissue building and repair. Meat is a common source of protein for many people, so for vegetarians alternative sources of protein are required. For vegetarians, protein may be sourced from soy products such as tofu or tempeh, and from legumes, nuts and whole grains.
Meat is a good source of iron, and many vegetables are also high in iron though it is harder to absorb the iron sources from vegetables than from meat. Vegetarians can improve their iron absorption by consuming vitamin C with thier meal, for example by having a glass of orange juice.
Vitamin B12 is important for the production of red blood cells, and helps to maintain healthy nerves mental abilities. Lack of vitamin B12 can lead to anemia. In addition to meat products, it is found in dairy and eggs, however vegans may need to have a vitamin supplements to adequate amounts.