Before you consider jumping into the vegetarian bandwagon, there are several things you should first consider. Turning a new leaf entails some sacrifices but can be very rewarding once these changes become second nature. Going cold turkey and switching to a vegan lifestyle may not be for everybody. Becoming a vegetarian is a life changing decision. But before you make that all important decision.
Vegetarians and Vegans
A pure vegetarian also termed as a vegan, is a person who only consumes fruits and vegetables. They have made a conscious decision to exclude meat, fish and poultry from their diet. Becoming a vegetarian started to become popular in the 90’s and has shed its image as a fad diet for the rich and famous to one of the healthiest diet being used today.
Eating vegetables drastically lowers a person’s risk for cancer. Compared to the preparation and cooking of meat, vegetables require less or no cancerous elements during its preparation. Simple grilling and smoking – two of the most common ways of preparing and cooking meat produce polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heterocyclic amines which are said to be carcinogenic.
Vegetarians are also less likely to be overweight compared to their meat-loving counterparts and are more likely to be energetic during the day. A higher intake of dietary fiber is also observed with vegetarians while people who shun from vegetables have greater chances of suffering from micronutrient deficiencies.
The advantages of being a vegan and having a vegetarian diet are well-documented. However, the disadvantages of vegetarianism should not be taken for granted either.
- Protein deficiency
Meats are our body’s primary sources for protein, essential building materials for our body. If you’re shunning out meat entirely from your diet, include legumes, poultry, soya beans, nuts and seeds. Rich sources of protein include dairy products such as milk, egg, yogurt and cheese.
Vegetable based meat alternative don’t only look the part but also contain good amounts of proteins. Tofu for example is rich in proteins making them a healthy option for vegetarians.
- Mineral deficiency
There is a chance that a vegan might suffer from mineral deficiencies so it’s important that you consult with your doctor or a dietician to keep your diets truly healthy. Restrictive diets run the risk of shunning out limited sources of important nutrients and minerals needed by the body. Taking in natural food supplements is a simple way of supplying yourself with much needed minerals and vitamins.
- Food Preparation
Many restaurants would label themselves as Vegan-friendly but are unaware on how to properly prepare vegan dishes. Take for example restaurant that cook using meat based oils in preparing their dishes. Dining out could be a challenge as Vegan restaurants are hard to come by.
Three Simple Steps to Becoming a Vegetarian
Discipline and sacrifice are two of the most important attributes for those planning to switch to a vegetarian lifestyle. Lifelong eating habits could not be changed overnight. Going cold turkey is highly discouraged. People who suffer from the unpleasant psychological side effects of the experience might not continue
It takes a lot of discipline and sacrifice to embark on this vegetarian journey and avoiding the stress of completely overhauling your diet overnight can be really helpful. Allow your body to be acclimated with a plant-rich diet for at least a month or two before shifting full gear into a vegetarian lifestyle. Here is PETA’s (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) guide to becoming a vegetarian.
- For the first two weeks, be vegetarian three times a week
- For the next two weeks, try being a vegetarian five times a week
- You’ve been nearly vegetarian for almost a month – congratulations!
First used in ancient China around 200 B.C., tofu or sometimes called us bean curd has long been used in Chinese cuisines. Tofu is made up from soy milk and has a subtle flavor, making it a perfect partner for dishes that require strong meat flavors.
Tempeh is a traditional Indonesian food made from fermented soybeans and other grains. Unlike tofu which is made from soybean milk, tempeh contains whole soybeans, making it a lot denser. Because of its density, tempeh should be braised in a flavorful liquid for at least an hour prior to cooking or preparation. Doing so softens the tempeh and makes its flavor a lot milder.
Seitan or wheat gluten is derived from wheat and is a great source of protein. Seitan can be used as a chicken substitute in all-time favorite chicken-based meals like curry, chicken soup or the Spain’s paella and picadillo.
Some other vegetables that can be used to substitute or totally remove meat from your diet include nuts, wheat and bread – all of which are great sources of protein and calories. Similarly, fresh fruits and their juices can also be incorporated into a healthy vegetarian diet.
Vegetables versus Meat
Declaring vegetables better than meat or vice versa outright is arguable. Labeling certain food group as being unhealthy is unjustified. Even your average burger with all its fat and cholesterol plays a vital role in supplying our bodies with much needed energy.
However, this doesn’t mean that we should ignore the benefits of eating vegetables over meat. Research reveals time and time again that being a vegetarian or consuming a plant-rich diet can help you in more ways than you can imagine.