Fall is a
wonderful time of the year to make dietary changes. Fruits and
vegetables are abundant, the weather slows most of us down, and it is a
good time to make lifestyle changes (BEFORE the holidays arrive with
their added calories and artery clogging richness). Everywhere you look
you can find vegetable stands displaying a kaleidoscope of corn,
melons, potatoes, berries, squash, cucumbers, peppers, beets and
tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes... As a Vegan (one who does not eat meat,
dairy or eggs) who loves to eat, this is my favorite eating season. For
years I have been asked so many questions about Vegetarianism (the
practice of not consuming meat) - I think now is a good time to clear
up some misconceptions.
Myth #1 - Vegetarians do not get enough protein.
Most people have a skewed idea of how much protein the body actually
needs. A vegetarian diet contains more than enough protein. Vegans, on
the other hand, have to be aware of getting the right variety of amino
acids (protein building blocks). his is not difficult though. Vegans
can combine foods such as beans and grains, cereals and leafy greens,
nuts and grains, or using soy products to get the necessary amino acids
that the body cannot synthesize by itself.
Myth #2 - Vegetarian diets are healthier
than omnivorous diets.
A Vegetarian needs to be
well educated in nutrition science. I have spoken with people who have
attempted to become Vegetarian and found themselves anemic, fatigued
and drawn. Others have gained a lot of weight by overeating breads and
Generally though, Vegetarians are
significantly less likely to struggle with diabetes, cardio-vascular
disease, and obesity. And the high fiber content aids in preventing
Myth #3 - Vegans, inherent of their diet, are calcium deficient.
The dairy industry has convinced us that they have the corner
on dietary calcium. The truth is that many plant foods contain calcium:
tofu, collard greens, blackstrap molasses, figs, turnip greens, kale,
navy beans, almonds, oranges, broccoli and more.
Myth #4 - Vegetarians eat a lot of weird
A large proportion of the world's
population is vegetarian, so this perspective may be strictly American.
However, much of the Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Asian foods are
delicious and very healthful.
I am not trying to convert anyone.
In fact, if you are an omnivore; I strongly suggest you talk with
someone who has been a Vegetarian for many years before making any
changes. Even if you have no intention of giving up your meats, this is
a great time of year to enjoy the fresh harvest.
Referenced: Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter: April