Whenever someone asks me about ways to get healthy, my first response is automatic: eat less meat.
Not only does eating less meat make a huge difference for your health, it’s easy. I’m not even saying you should never take another bite of meat from this moment on. I’m simply saying eat less meat.
The wonderful thing about your health is that any change makes a difference. If you cut meat from your diet just 3 times a week, you‘ll still have results. Now of course there’s nothing like going all the way (where my vegans at?) but it’s important to just start. So let’s go through the basic nutrition needs and their vegetarian substitutes:
It’s just not that serious. On a western dietary pattern you’re actually more prone to over consumption of protein than the underconsumption stereotypically associated with plant based diets. Here are the top ten plant based sources of protein:
Surveys have shown vegetarians to be no more iron deficient than the general population, so put to rest the cliche image of non-meat eaters as sickly, pale people in want of a hamburger. Kale actually contains more iron than beef does. But let’s go to the chart:
Veggie Tip: you can bump up the iron in your meal by including broccoli, tomatoes or citrus fruit juices. Vitamin C enhances the way your body absorbs iron. Using cast iron cookware doesn’t hurt either.
Another supposed obstacle to a plant based diet with another simple explanation.
You don’t need to consume animal products to get vitamin B12 anymore than you need to consume plant foods; neither naturally contain it. Only microorganisms create vitamin B12. So as long as your small intestine gets enough of certain nutrients (cobalt, calcium and protein), your body will successfully produce and absorb vitamin B12.
It’s actually animal products that are more likely to cause a deficiency by indirectly exposing you to antibiotics, which obstruct B12 absorption, along with alcohol, smoking and stress.
It doesn’t hurt to take a supplement every now and then, but just to keep things in perspective, the lifetime requirement for vitamin B12 adds up to about 1/7th the size of of an average aspirin tablet. So don’t stress about it, lest you hinder your B12 absorption!
You can get this vitamin from certain cereals, soy milk and eggs, though don’t forget it’s referred to as the “sunshine vitamin” because sunlight on skin helps produce it.
One food usually comes to people’s minds at the mention of omega 3 fatty acids: fish (particularly salmon)…and that’s pretty much it. Relying only on one source for an important dietary need is silly, especially when there are tons of different ways to get your omega 3s.
I love hemp and flax seeds: just throw them on your toast, avocados, in a smoothie or in yogurt. You can’t argue against how much simpler a source of essential fats they are than buying an expensive salmon and preparing a whole meal to go along. It almost seems kind of natural doesn’t it?
You’re making an easy change that’s going to have a wonderful impact on your health and the environment too. Be proud! Now get started with my favorite recipes:
À la prochaine!