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Should I become a vegetarian

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If you’re looking for a healthier lifestyle, you might be considering becoming a vegetarian. Whilst there are many advantages for your health of eating a meat-free diet, it can also be lacking in some nutrients if meals aren’t planned correctly.

Good for your heart

One benefit of a vegetarian diet is that it is generally lower in fat than eating meat. Some meat and diary products are extremely high in levels of saturated fat, which can increase your cholesterol levels. This puts you at a significantly increased risk of suffering a stroke or heart attack. In order to make the most of these benefits, you need to replace the meat with products that are good for your heart, including beans and lentils. These contain soluble fibre, which helps to lower cholesterol.

Getting enough nutrients

If you’re not careful, a vegetarian diet can make you deficient in certain nutrients. Rather than simply eliminating meat from your meals, you need to choose the right replacements to maintain your levels of vitamins and minerals. Protein is found naturally in many meats, so you should include foods rich in this, including tofu, beans, lentils, quinoa, nuts and spinach.

Vegetarians can easily become deficient in iron, as most meat-free sources of the vitamin are not as easy to absorb. To help aid the absorption of iron, you should include some vitamin C within your meal. For example, a tomato based sauce would help your body absorb the iron from the other foods on your plate.

B12 is another vitamin that can be lacking in a vegetarian diet. This is important for general health and wellbeing and only occurs naturally in some meat and dairy products. Vegetarian foods containing B12 include milk, eggs, cheese and fortified cereals, yeast extracts and soya products.

Oily fish is an excellent source of omega 3, which is good for your heart health. It can help to lower your chance of having heart disease. Ways in which vegetarians can increase their consumption of omega 3 is through linseed, rapeseed and soya oil, tofu and other soya products, walnuts and eggs that have been enriched.

Not guaranteed to lose weight

Often people choose a vegetarian diet as a way of losing weight. However, while some people will do, this isn’t always the case. The amount of weight you lose will depend on the type of food you consume. If you eat a lot of rice, pasta and bread then you could end up putting weight on. If you’re just looking for a weight loss programme, then choosing leaner portions of meat could be just as effective as eliminating it all together.

How to be a good vegetarian

should I become a vegetarianWhatever reason you opt to become a vegetarian for, it’s important that you take it seriously to ensure you’re getting a healthy diet. You need to plan your meals, so that you’re choosing a good substitute for meat. This will help you to maintain the correct levels of nutrients. It’s important when becoming a vegetarian that you’re open to exploring new foods and tastes; otherwise your diet could become stagnant and boring. Invest in a vegetarian cook book and try adding different herbs and flavours to your food.

Do it gradually

If you’ve never been a vegetarian before, try phasing it in gradually rather than just stopping eating meat all together. You could have a couple of meat-free days every week and see how you get on. Unless you want to be a vegetarian for ethical reasons, there’s no need to embrace the change 100%. In any lifestyle, cooking from scratch is usually better for you than processed foods. This way you can control exactly what you’re eating, how much salt you’re adding and the size of your portions. Vegetarian ready meals are not always the healthy option, so where possible use fresh ingredients.

As with any diet, it’s important to eat a varied, balanced and healthy selection of foods. However, as many nutrients are naturally found in meat products, vegetarians need to be careful that they are maintaining the right levels of these to keep themselves healthy both inside and out.

 

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About Catherine Stern

About Catherine Stern

Catherine Stern is a freelance writer with a background in marketing and PR. She currently writes web content on a range of subjects, from finance and business to travel and home improvements. As a working single mum of two young boys she understands the pressures that today’s working parents face and the topics they want to read about.

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