Vegetarians can benefit from being super-healthy, with lower blood pressure than their carnivorous counterparts.
But unless you’re eating the right things, it’s easy to end up stuffing yourself silly with crisps, snacks and unhealthy quick fixes.
Substituting meat is seen as tricky for a lot of people, but with such a range of vegetarian alternatives nowadays, there’s no reason why today’s veggies shouldn’t be lean, mean, fitness machines.
Omitting meat from a diet means a lack of protein, B vitamins, zinc and whole host of other nutrients. But there are some foods out there – strictly sans animal product that will keep you in fine fettle.
TOFU – Although tofu has the “like it or loathe” it trait, it is hugely versatile and keeps it shape while cooking. It contains protein, zinc and iron, with some omega-3 fatty acids. You can often treat it as you would meat, and you can flavour it easily.
SEAWEED – Don’t panic, you won’t need to grab your bucket and spade and head for the nearest beach, the types of seaweed we’re referring to are the edible varieties already harvested and processed for your needs and available from health food shops, Japanese and Korean markets, and some supermarkets. Seaweed, including varieties such as kelp, nori, spirulina and alaria, contain stacks of iron and phytochemicals, and pack a mean mineral punch with magnesium, calcium, iodine, iron and chromium.
LENTILS – Not just for hippies, like beans, lentils are part of the legume family and provide protein and fibre. They contain twice as much iron as your average bean and are packed with vitamin B and folate. Lentils also win out over beans as they tend to result in less gas!
NUTS - It’s been said that nuts can help with weight loss, and they are super good for you, with vitamin E, zinc and protein all part of their CV. They make a great snack, or sprinkled over a meal such as noodles and stir fries.
VEGETABLES – Erm, yes, we know – obvious right? Well, as veggies, you should be eating stacks of veg. Nobody needs to tell you how great they are because the benefits are so well documented. Leafy green ones are the best.
Veganism is not compatible with life unless supplements are added. Vegetarianism does work, although the human 'animal' is designed to be omnivorous.
I don't think it's natural or ideal for everyone to be vegetarian. A friend of mine was vegan and she began to get very weak. She added in small amounts of organic chicken and felt so much better.
I can relate to your experience, Derek - only in our family, I'm the one who's the natural meat eater whereas my kids and husbands prefer vegetarian food. I largely go with the majority vote and sneak in a steak whenever I can...!
I think a lot of it is down to your personal metabolism. I tried going veggie for a while at my wife's request. She's fit and strong. Without meat, I found I was hungry constantly, suffered low energy levels and just didn't feel like I was functioning optimally. We've had to accept that she's a natural veggie and I'm not. Makes family meals a bit of a challenge...
As a vegan, I'm really pleased to see an article about vegetarianism that doesn't focus on eggs and dairy products! Veganism is the logical progression from vegetarianism, whether you're doing it for health reasons or because you're concerned about animal welfare.
I've heard that one too, Frank - usually from pre-teens who decide to go veggie having realised where meat comes from, but won't eat their vegetables!
I went to college with a guy who chose to become vegetarian but as he wasn't 'a big fan of fruit & veg' he mainly ate dairy products which meant way too much cheese and a lifestyle less healthy than when he ate meat. I should send him these tips if he's still at it!