The food you eat is incredibly important, but what if you don’t want to eat meat?
Being vegetarian or vegan doesn’t mean that you can’t lose weight or eat healthy; it just means there are different ways for you to go about doing that.
Veganism has a lot of benefits that some believe outweigh the things you’ll be missing out on. For those of you who don’t know, vegetarian and vegan are different.
Vegetarians generally eat certain dairy products, like eggs, milk, and butter. Vegans, however, don’t consume any animal products, meaning no dairy at all.
The reasons that you choose for going vegetarian or vegan are your own. Some want to try to stop animal cruelty in big industries, and they believe boycotting animal products is the best way to do so.
Others find that going vegan is more beneficial for their body because of an ailment or sickness that they have.
Still, others find that getting rid of animal products from their diet just makes their body feel better. Whatever reason you have, it matters.
Changing your lifestyle to vegan or vegetarian has tons of benefits.
For example, many chronic illnesses can be avoided if you avoid a lot of the meat that you eat. Studies have shown that eating more fruits and vegetables actually reduces the risk of some cancers, heart disease, and Type-II Diabetes.
Those who are at a higher risk of developing these diseases might consider changing their diet.
You might be unaware, but there are a few different types of vegetarians. In fact, there are technically four different categories that vegetarians fall under.
- Lacto-Ovo Vegetarians are the vegetarians most people think of. They will not eat any types of meat. Fish, poultry, and any products derived from animals will not be eaten unless it is part of the dairy family. Eggs and other dairy products are still eaten.
- Lacto Vegetarians are almost identical to Lacto-Ovo vegetarians, but they won’t eat eggs. They are free to consume any other dairy product, except for eggs. This is likely due to the fact that eggs can be hatched into baby chickens, but milk is just a byproduct of cows. They naturally produce this substance, and drinking milk isn’t cutting off life.
- Ovo Vegetarians won’t eat any kinds of meat or dairy products, except for eggs. This could be because a person is lactose intolerant, or it could just be a personal preference. Eggs are jam- packed with protein and are easily one of the best ways to get protein as a vegetarian, along with nuts and other foods.
- Partial Vegetarians have a little more leeway than others. There are also a few types of partial vegetarians. Generally, they pick and choose what meats they will and will not eat.
- Peso-vegetarians (or pescatarians) won’t eat any meat except for fish. They usually also eat eggs and other dairy products, but meat and poultry are not on the menu.
- Pollo-vegetarians won’t eat any meat or fish, but will gladly eat poultry. They will also usually eat eggs and other dairy products.
It’s interesting that there are so many different types of vegetarians. For some people, going all the way and becoming a lacto-ovo vegetarian is too much.
Some people follow a semivegetarian diet — also called a flexitarian diet — which is primarily a plant-based diet but includes meat, dairy, eggs, poultry and fish on occasion or in small quantities.
You can slowly cut down the amount of meat you eat and then the types of meat. From there, you can slowly cut down on the others as well until you hit the desired end goal.
As for veganism, there’s really only one type. All meat, dairy, and animal products are cut out of your diet. Some go even further and refuse to wear anything made from an animal, including wool, leather, and silk.
They also will not use soaps or cosmetics that have animal products in them.
Being vegan can be very beneficial. You won’t have to worry about needing any fiber in your diet, as vegan diets are typically high in fiber and many different vitamins and minerals.
They are low in saturated fats, vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, and other things, some of which can be raised with supplements or finding specific foods with those things in them.
Having a properly planned out diet among both vegans and vegetarians is incredibly important.
|Food Group*||Daily Amount|
|Vegetables||2 1/2 cups a day|
|Fruits||2 cups a day|
|Grains (mostly whole)||6 1/2 ounces a day|
|Dairy||3 cups a day|
|Protein foods||3 1/2 ounces a day|
|Oils||27 grams a day|
If you just start eating foods you know aren’t meats but only eat certain ones every time, then you could easily lack certain things that your body needs.
A vegan diet, for example, eliminates natural food sources of vitamin B-12, as well as milk products, which are good sources of calcium.
Any number of things could occur if that were to happen, so be sure to plan out a diet with your doctor or someone else who is a vegan or vegetarian.
The basics of a properly planned diet include having three full meals a day plus two snacks. These snacks are there to keep your blood sugar up and give you a boost in energy.
If you are someone who generally skips breakfast, you should start eating a good breakfast. This can prevent you from eating the wrong foods later in the day.
Portion control is also very important. Just because you are eating a lot of healthy foods doesn’t mean you can eat as much of that as you want, especially when trying to lose or maintain your weight.
With any diet, there are some concerns that you won’t get the required amount of a nutrient that your body needs.
The same goes for vegetarians and vegans. There are plenty of nutrients that naturally occur in the foods that you are cutting out of your diet, which could lead to issues.
There are eight nutrients you should pay close attention to. If you find that the foods you eat aren’t giving you the proper amount, look for other foods that contain these nutrients that you can add to your diet.
If that isn’t possible, talk to your doctor, and see if you should take a supplement.
This nutrient is incredibly important. It will strengthen your teeth and bones, something that becomes even more necessary the older you get.
Most people think of the calcium that is in milk, but there is calcium in many different foods. Some of these foods might even surprise you.
There is a lot of calcium in dark greens, such as kale, broccoli, and other collard greens, as long as you eat a sufficient amount of them.
Other calcium-enriched foods include soy milk, soy yogurt, tofu, juices, and cereal. They may not naturally have calcium, but calcium has been added in.
Just like calcium, vitamin D is important for your bone health. In fact, this vitamin actually helps you absorb calcium, which makes it even more important.
This will help keep your immune system up and running, thus preventing you from getting various diseases that you might otherwise acquire.
The benefits of vitamin D go even further. There has been research that suggests vitamin D can actually help fight depression.
It helps regulate your mood, which can then, in turn, alleviate some of your more severe symptoms. It can also help with anxiety, which often comes in conjunction with depression.
It can also help with weight loss. One study showed that people who were taking both a calcium supplement and a vitamin D supplement exhibited more weight loss than those who were taking a placebo pill.
These two have an appetite-suppressing ability. If you have a deficiency in either of these, supplements can definitely help.
Vitamin D is naturally produced in your skin when it is exposed to sunlight.
Obviously, don’t stand out in the sun for an unsafe amount of time, but standing outside for 10 to 15 minutes without sunscreen can boost your body’s vitamin D.
There are a few decent sources of vitamin D in foods. Salmon, for partial vegetarians, has a decent amount of vitamin D. Egg yolks also have some vitamin D.
Orange juice, yogurt, and cereal are all fortified with vitamin D, making them not the best candidates for it, but they can still give you some of this vitamin.
Vitamin B-12 is crucial for your red blood cells. Having a deficiency of this vitamin can lead to
anemia, which can cause a host of other issues. Unfortunately, for a vegan or vegetarian, it becomes a little more difficult to get this vitamin.
This vitamin is also crucial for your nervous system health. It is crucial for keeping your hormones balanced and ensuring that the DNA synthesis in your body working at the full potential.
Unfortunately, many people with this deficiency have depression and anxiety, since their hormones are not as regulated as they should be.
You can also become chronically stressed, which can take a huge toll on your body.
Finding ways to boost your vitamin B-12 intake can be incredibly important.
There are many fish that have natural B-12 in them, but for vegans and vegetarians, there are alternatives. Breakfast cereals are fortified with this vitamin.
Milk and yogurt also have some vitamin B-12. Hard boiled eggs are also a good choice to get more vitamin B-12. There are also some soy products fortified with this vitamin.
There is a myth that has been going around for a long time about vegans and protein.
Even though it’s been proven wrong, many still believe that vegans and vegetarians, though to a lesser extent, don’t get enough protein from the foods they eat.
This actually isn’t true. There are tons of alternatives to the protein in meat.
Protein is a vital part of your body. You need it in order for your body to repair any damaged tissues or cells. Your hair and nails are made up of mostly protein, so eating protein can help replenish those as well. It’s a building block for most things in your body, including your bones, muscles, cartilage, and skin.
There are many alternate ways to get protein. Numerous vegetables, including spinach, French beans, peas, and kale, are packed with protein.
If you’re a fan of smoothies, try adding some hemp powder into them. This has plenty of protein and will help you get through the day.
Different kinds of beans are also full of protein. They are part of the protein food group, so it makes sense that they would be a go-to ingredient in the world of protein.
Lentils are an interesting seed, but they are great and filled with protein. They can be added to rice dishes or veggie burgers to have that extra bit of protein.
Quinoa is a wonderful and versatile food that can be used in so many different ways. Moreover, it has about 9 grams of protein a cup.
Tofu is also a great idea when looking for protein-ridden foods.
Of course, various nuts are always filled with protein. Almonds and almond butter are great sources of protein.
They can be added to any number of different meals to enhance them and give them an extra crunch. One last protein-filled food is chickpeas.
They can be prepared in various ways, including hummus. Hummus is delicious, but you should try to use more actual chickpeas in various dishes. There is less sodium and more protein in chickpeas than in store- bought hummus.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
You might be wondering why you should want something with the word “fatty: in it. Make no mistake; omega-3 fatty acids are incredibly important to your diet. There are different types of omega-3s that do different things to help your body. They are ALA, EPA, and DHA.
ALA is mostly used to add energy to our cells, which keep us going. This fatty acid is also the building block for EPA and DHA. So, basically, if you don’t have enough ALA, then you definitely won’t have enough EPA and DHA. It works in conjunction with the others to help your body in various ways.
EPA helps with your inflammatory system, which acts when your body gets hurt. It acts as a natural anti-inflammatory agent, making it harder to become excessively inflamed, which can be damaging. Your body naturally reacts to damage by becoming inflamed, which then initiates cells from your immune system to start healing the damaged area. Some people have inflammation-related diseases, which can lead to higher rates of inflammation. EPA will help prevent that.
DHA specifically targets the nervous system, and the brain is surprisingly filled with DHA. This fatty acid makes up about 15% to 20% of the total fat in the brain, which is around 60% fat by weight. Research has shown that children who weren’t exposed to a good amount of DHA tend to have slower neurological development or cognitive impairment. Adults can also be affected by the lack of DHA, with the chances of getting something like Parkinson’s disease much higher than they might normally be.
All three of these omega-3s are important in some way to the natural functions of the body. So, is there anything else they could help?
Depression, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, ADHD, and many other things can be alleviated with an increase in the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids.
What kinds of foods should you be eating, especially if you don’t eat meat?
There are a lot of foods with these in them. Flaxseed actually has the greatest amount of this particular nutrient out of anything else, making this a great thing to add to your vegan or vegetarian diet.
Walnuts are a close second and are also an excellent choice in food. Beyond that, there are Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, soybeans, tofu, winter squash, broccoli, collard greens, spinach, and much more that are great for a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle.
Many women in particular hear about how they need more iron in their diets. For everyone, iron is very important.
Not having enough can lead to anemia, but having too much can lead to tissue damage. So, is it still really important? Iron is mainly used to help with oxygen transport. For women, menstruation will bring your iron levels way down.
As you menstruate, you release a mix of different things, including blood, which has iron in it. Girls who are just starting menstruation are at a higher risk of developing anemia because it’s a whole new thing happening to their body.
Making sure to eat iron-rich foods can help prevent anemia during menstruation for all women.
There are many foods that have a good amount of iron in them.
For those who don’t eat meat, there are dried beans, lentils, peas, fortified cereals, dark leafy greens, and whole-grain products. Along with this, you should eat plenty of foods with vitamin C.
This will help your body better absorb the iron you’re consuming.
Zinc is important for keeping your immune system working properly. It keeps your cells healthy
and strong. There are also other health benefits that come from having a good amount of zinc in your body.
This can help boost your athletic performance, giving you the energy that you need to complete these things. It can also help with fertility. Zinc is vital in maturing the egg and helping with fertilization.
Cancer is becoming very prevalent. A zinc deficiency has been found to lead to a multitude of different cancers, including that in the prostate, breast, colon, skin, lungs, ovaries, and leukemia.
Having a good amount of zinc in your body can help prevent the occurrence of cancer in your body.
It’s also crucial for your cardiovascular health. If you don’t have enough zinc, it can lead to high cholesterol and a buildup of fat in your arteries, which can eventually lead to a heart attack. Zinc is also helpful in your insulin production, which can help prevent diabetes.
Just like iron, you don’t want to have too much zinc in your body. It can lead to a ton of different things, including poor immune health and infertility. If you are thinking about taking zinc supplements, definitely talk to your doctor first.
The foods you’re eating might be giving you more than enough zinc.
Some foods to look at if you want to raise your zinc levels include nuts, soy products, whole grains, legumes, and yeast.
Unfortunately, most vegetables aren’t a good source of zinc, which is why many vegans and vegetarians have a lower zinc level. Therefore, if you really aren’t getting the proper amount of zinc, talk to your doctor, and see if you should be taking a supplement.
This one may seem a little weird, but it’s something your body needs. Having enough iodine in your system can lead to many benefits, some of which are mental and some are physical. Either way, this will help immensely with your overall health.
Having a good amount of iodine in your system can improve your cognitive abilities, which includes things like how you learn, how you complete tasks, and how you pay attention. Iodine also helps with your thyroid.
Many people who have an iodine deficiency actually have an underactive thyroid. This can lead to weight gain because metabolism slows right down once your thyroid stops working hard.
For those of you with hormonal imbalance, maybe you don’t have the right amount of iodine. Given that it helps regulate your thyroid, which also regulates your hormones, not having enough iodine can cause your hormones to start going haywire.
Iodine can also add to your energy levels. If you’ve been feeling especially sluggish, then maybe you have low iodine levels.
Some people have thinning hair or hair that just doesn’t grow very fast. Iodine can promote healthy hair growth.
This doesn’t mean you should get too much iodine in your system. Too much iodine is detrimental to your health, so you should definitely stick with a healthy amount of iodine.
It’s starting to be used as a type of antibiotic against certain pathogens. It’s been shown to only kill off the bad bacteria and leave the good alone, which is something other antibiotics have been known to attack.
Iodine offers some protection against radiation. Some doctors use it on patients who’ve been
exposed to too much radiation as a way to treat radiation poisoning. In the same vein, it offers some protection against cancer.
The more regular your iodine levels are, the less likely you are to develop cancer. That doesn’t mean you’re completely immune, but the chances of getting cancer are reduced. Notably, iodine is crucial in preventing thyroid cancer.
Given that iodine is so closely linked to your thyroid, it makes sense that having an iodine deficiency is more often seen in those with thyroid cancer than those without.
There are some foods that have a large amount of iodine. The vegan and vegetarian ones include dried seaweed, yogurt, eggs, strawberries, cranberries, and other sea vegetables. These foods, when eaten regularly, will keep your iodine levels in the appropriate zone.
Being vegan or vegetarian doesn’t mean you’re automatically deficient in the nutrients you need. It’s easy to find natural ways to get certain nutrients.
It doesn’t matter what your diet is; there are always ways to find food alternatives to get the nutrients you need for a healthy body.
A Vegan diet can’t slow your fitness ambitions
Choosing a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle doesn’t mean you’ll lose out on things that you love. In fact, you might realize that this is the lifestyle you’ve been missing this whole time. If you have any medical condition, going vegan or vegetarian might be able to help.
The focus on vegetables, fruits, and other healthy options might be exactly what your body needs to feel better.
You’ll still be able to do everything that everyone else can do. You might not eat the same foods, but you will be able to work out, write, play, work, watch TV, and do everything else you can imagine.
You might even notice that you have more energy than you did before to do those things. In the end, it’s your choice, and you should stick with it.