Following a plant-based diet was not always so easy as resources were limited, and a certain amount of dedication was needed to source a nutritionally balanced diet.
However, with the rise of vegetarianism and veganism over the last few years, food manufacturers have begun to offer a great deal more choice to those who wish to avoid animal products and enjoy a healthy and varied diet. There is much evidence to suggest that being vegan or vegetarian can help improve health and extend life.
Michael Kern, Craniosacral Therapy Educational Trust co-founder, has been a vegetarian for over 48 years and enjoys adapting recipes and seeking out new ingredients to expand his culinary repertoire. Some of the health benefits of being vegetarian are outlined in the PDF attachment.
Meat is naturally rich in protein, so those who choose to give up meat need to be aware of alternative protein sources to ensure they get enough in their diet. However, this is not difficult as countless foods that are not derived from animals are high in protein. So, from a nutritional perspective, the requirement for meat is not hard to eliminate.
Generally speaking, women require approximately 45g of protein and men require approximately 55g each day, although this needs to be adjusted for factors such as height, weight and levels of physical activity. Vegetarians who eat eggs and dairy can source a lot of protein from these foods, as around 6g of protein is contained in a single large egg.
There are also no real barriers to getting enough protein as a vegan as 100g of nuts or seeds will provide between 15g and 20g of protein, and a similar amount can be sourced from lentils and beans. Soya products such as tofu, or protein-fortified snacks such as bars and ‘energy balls’ can help boost protein intake.
Getting enough carbohydrates is required for optimum health in any diet. Generally speaking, vegetarians should aim to include some starchy carbs, such as pasta, rice, potatoes, bread and cereals, on a regular basis. According to body type, it has been recommended that these make up around a third of the total food intake and wherever possible be the wholegrain varieties.
Starchy carbs, which are part of the complex group of carbohydrates, help to maintain energy levels as well as being good sources of iron, calcium, fibre and B vitamins. Simple carbohydrates, however, are more easily absorbed by the body and can result in energy spikes and falls.
More information about simple carbohydrates can be seen in the embedded short video.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids have multiple health benefits and should be consumed regularly for optimum health. Vegetarians and vegans can ensure they get enough omega-3 by increasing their intake of plant sources such as seeds and nuts. Green leafy vegetables, walnuts, flaxseed, pecan nuts, hazelnuts, rapeseed oil and chia seeds are also high in omega-3 fatty acids.
Some statistics about veganism from the Vegan Society are included in the attached infographic.