Taking the plunge from a meat-eating diet to vegetarianism is not nearly as scary as one might expect. The number-one complaint most naysayers have about the vegetarian diet is that protein can not be consumed in an appropriate amount without eating meat or meat products. Fortunately, those who choose to go meatless whether for ethical or health reasons tend to have a heightened awareness of what goes into their bodies and know there are options from many different sources.
Meat is not the only source for nutrients, and it shouldn’t be treated as such. While some choose to opt out of the meat-filled diet due to guidelines from the doctor, some people prefer not eating meat because of the way it was handled prior to slaughtering, which is a dark reality for most manufacturers. Luckily, there are plenty of meat-alternatives on the market, a plethora of fruits and vegetables, nuts, grains, and supplements to fill any void in the diet when meat is omitted.
· Protein is a huge part of a healthy diet, and it can be found in meat substitutes, lentils and legumes, soy products, and in dairy (if not vegan).
· B12 is a necessary part of the diet that aids in red blood cell production and a number of metabolic functions. Without eating meat, it’s important to consume enough of this water-soluble vitamin from supplements, fortified grains/cereals, and through fortified soy products.
· Calcium can be included in the vegetarian diet when dairy, dark leafy vegetables, fruit juices, and soy products are consumed.
· Iron is a major-player in red blood cells and is best absorbed by vegetarians when supplemented with plenty of Vitamin C-containing sources. Dark green leafy vegetables again are beneficial in this diet and are high in iron, along with dried fruit, beans and peas.
· Omega-3-Fatty Acids , which are praised for their anti-inflammatory properties among many other health benefits are found in flaxseeds, canola oil, soybeans and walnuts. Supplementation is recommended on this diet, because the amount of Omega-3 that is absorbed from this meal plan is limited compared to the amount in a carnivorous diet.
While eating a diet rich in meat can be a convenient way to meet all the nutritional needs of the body, it is not the only way that works. Studies have been conducted time and time again about the health benefits and drawbacks from eating and avoiding meats, yet none have been conclusive in determining that one size fits all. A number of bodybuilders and athletes have “defied the odds” in their respected practice on vegetarian diets, and that goes to show that when aware of the body’s needs, one can maintain optimum health on the diet of their choice.