Currently one in 10 of us in Australia is vegetarian. One in seven of us is thinking about becoming vegetarian in the future. One of the predicted top 10 food trends in 2022 is eating more plant foods. Chances are you might be vegetarian or considering reducing how much meat you eat.
The big question…is being vegetarian healthy for YOU?
Yes absolutely, BUT…
Being a healthy vegetarian involves more than just cutting out meat and eating more plant foods. One of your first questions might be, how ‘vego’ are you planning to go? Reasons for choosing a vegetarian diet vary and include religious requirements, environmental concerns, to improve health or financial.
While a vegetarian diet excludes all animals including seafood, you might be aiming for a ‘flexitarian’ diet (meat, chicken and fish four times a week or less) or a reducetarian diet (reducing red meat in your diet).
Or do you want to be a ‘vegan’ (someone who eats absolutely nothing derived from animals or from animal products)? Will you adopt an ovo-vegetarian diet (avoid animals or animal products, but include eggs) or a lacto-vegetarian (include dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt, etc)?
You might be thinking of opting for a pescatarian diet instead (excludes animal meats or products with the exception of seafood such as fish, prawns, crabs and lobster).
The reality is, the more restrictive you become with animal foods, the more important it is to plan your diet. This is to be sure you get all the nutrients you need.
The main nutrients of concern in becoming a vegetarian are proteins (found in meat, chicken and other poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy (yoghurt, milk, cheese), nuts, seeds, legumes, soy foods (e.g. tofu, tempeh, soy milk, soy yoghurt), textured vegetable protein (TVP), tofu and tempeh), calcium, iron, zinc, iodine, omega-3 fats and vitamin B12.
The health benefits of a plant-based diet includes improved heart health, lower blood pressure and less harmful cholesterol. Another major benefit is as a preventative against type 2 diabetes and obesity. A plant-based diet is also associated with a lower risk for cancer. Note the emphasis on a healthy plant-based diet!
It is possible to eat vegetarian and still make unhealthy choices. If you’re planning to modify or change your diet to either become vegetarian or simply reduce your intake of red meat, it’s important you speak with a dietitian to make the most sustainable and beneficial decisions, particularly in terms of maintaining or improving your lifelong good health.
To get a personalised appointment about your diet contact The Albion Dietitians at The Albion Centre on (02) 9332 9600. We’re offering telehealth (video and phone) appointments.
The Albion Centre Nutrition Team
Published in Talkabout #201 February 2022
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