I recently was introduced to Karyns Raw in Chicago. It’s an amazing place where vegan, gluten free and lactose free foods are found in familiar packages. That said, I interviewed Toby Amidor, a registered dietitian, to share her thoughts on this way of life.
Are vegetarians are healthier than carnivores?
here’s her answer: : it depends. Becoming a vegetarian is a personal choice, but once you opt in you must know exactly what to eat to stay healthy and fit.
Basic Food Groups
Vegetarian food groups include:
Grains like rice, wheat, rye, oats, millet, barley, amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa, spelt
Nuts like almonds, cashews, pecans
Seeds like sunflower and sesame
Legumes like beans, peas, lentils
There are various classifications of a vegetarian. All include the food groups listed above.
Vegans avoid all animal products including fish, meat, poultry, dairy, honey and other animal by-products. The stick exclusively to the list of food groups above.
Lactovegetarians add milk and dairy products.
Lacto-ovo-vegetarians add eggs, milk and dairy products. Try Egg Beaters for a delicious, low fat way to add protein to your diet.
Pescovegetarians add fish and seafood.
Pros vs. Cons
Studies have shown that going veg can help lower cholesterol and the risk of heart disease. You’ll also decrease the amount of hormones ingested from animal meats and dairy food (unless you already purchase hormone-free varieties).
There are nutritional concerns if you become a vegetarian—the stricter you are the more nutrients you need to pay attention to. But you can also be a vegetarian and go “off the deep end” (so to speak). I’ve counseled vegetarians who loved to fry, indulged in vegetarian-friendly processed foods and ate way too many avocados. The diet still needs to be balanced and healthy.
Here are some of the basic nutrients vegetarians need to pay attention to:
Protein: If you’re eating dairy, eggs, or fish you just need to make sure to eat your daily dose. However, vegans need to make sure they get protein from foods like beans, lentils, tofu (soy), grains, and nuts. Eating a variety of proteins helps ensure you’re getting all of your essential amino acids.
Calcium: Vegans and pesco-vegetarians need to make sure to get in calcium from foods like fortified juices and milk alternatives, leafy greens, beans, and almonds. If you don’t think you’re getting enough then consult your medical professional or registered dietitian about taking a calcium supplement.
Iron: Iron-deficiency anemia is the most common deficiency in the United States. Vegetarians who eat eggs do have a good source of the mineral, but other sources are beans, fortified oatmeal, beans, and leafy green vegetables. Using a cast-iron pan once or twice a week can also help get in some iron.
Vitamin D: This mineral is most commonly found in fish liver oils and fortified milk. You can also get your vitamin D by being exposed to the sun. Supplements are available, but it’s important to talk to your doctor as it’s the most toxic vitamin when you take too much.
Bottom Line: Before going veg, do your homework. Map out your allowable foods, ingredients, recipes and make sure you’re able to maintain a well-balanced diet.
Toby Amidor, MS RD is the owner of Toby Amidor Nutrition (http://tobyamidornutrition), the Nutrition Expert for FoodNetwork.com and the Nutrition Advisor for Sear’s FitStudio.com. Follow her on twitter (https://twitter.com/#!/tobyamidor) or Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/tobyamidornutrition)
Andrea Metcalf is a healthy lifestyle expert, best selling author of Naked Fitness and host/producer of Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is, weight loss tv reality show on NBC Nonstop in Chicago. She blogs to inspire and education people to live healthier lives by being healthy and moved daily. Sign up for her FREE monthly newsletter at www.andreametcalf.com for more healthy lifestyle videos and tips. Andrea has sponsored content in some of her blog postings, however reflects her personal opinions and not necessarily those of the sponsor.