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A Vegetarian Diet: Top Nutrition Tips

Considering cutting back on meat or becoming a vegetarian? Our Nutrition expert, Janella Purcell, tells you how to get adequate Protein and Iron.

Once upon a time the only place to get your protein was from meat, or so we thought. Nowadays we know so much more about food and what it contains, plus our diets are hugely more varied than they once were. These days we’re experimenting will all types of different cuisines, flavours and ideas. No longer are we expected to be satisfied with meat and 3 veg’.

If you’re thinking about cutting back on your meat intake it’s important to consider where you’ll be getting your protein and iron. Yes it is possible to be a healthy vegetarian, vegan or ‘flexitarian’ - just be sure you know where to find the nutrients you need. Our abundant plant kingdom will satisfy your every need.

Protein

Thanks to our wonderful plant kingdom we have been supplied with an abundance of protein in the form of legumes and lentils.

Regularly include - Chickpeas (hummus is a great way), kidney beans, navy beans and baked beans, tofu, tempeh and adzuki beans.

These inexpensive, nutrient- packed foods – which are also on of the top 10 foods to eat for longevity - are easy to include by either buying them in a can, (just be sure the can states that it is BPA free) or dried and soaked overnight. To increase digestibility of the beans, add seaweed like powdered nori or arame to the water as you cook them. You wont taste the seaweed so don’t worry that you’re meal will taste ‘fishy’. Seaweeds are available at any health food store.

Hemp is another fabulous source containing around 50% protein (red meat has around 17%), so sprinkle the seeds on your salads, your stir-fry or steamed veggies or toss them in your morning smoothie. And why not sprinkle some dry roasted sunflower seeds and roughly chopped almonds over your meals as well to boost the protein content? One of my personal favourites – tempeh. This is a fermented soy product. It’s widely available now, cheap and super easy to use. It’s also high in fibre and B12. Slice it into 1cm thick pieces, sprinkle with tamari (wheat-free soy sauce) then either grill it or panfry in a little coconut oil. You can then add it to just about everything. (Being a soy product be sure it’s organic or at least GMO free as this is one of the crops being grown using GMO technology.) At the top of the protein list is spirulina (an algae) with around 68% protein. Pop a teaspoon in your green smoothie in the morning.

Iron

There are two types of iron – heme (animal source) and non-heme (plant source). The latter doesn’t absorb as well as heme-iron does so include these foods regularly. It is important to include foods high in Vitamin C, as these will increase iron absorption up to 30%. (A squeeze a lemon juice or a sprinkling of goji berries should do it.)

These are great sources of non-heme iron –

Tahini, amaranth, chia seed, lentils, chickpeas, flax, organic tofu, organic soybeans (edamame), molasses almonds, spinach, white beans (navy), kale, local quinoa, spirulina, seaweed.

You’ll be amazed at how good you start to look and feel once you cut back on animal products and include some of these gorgeous ingredients.  

 
 

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4 comments
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Posted by Pauline314 • 29w ago • Report
I am soaking chickpeas bought raw and fresh from a shop in coburg, and cooking a recipe called chana masala, will see how this goes. I AM going to use more chickpeas in future.
Posted by Megan132 • 48w ago • Report
I'm studying Nutritional Medicine and have learned that if you are eating beans as your protein source, the only ones that have complete protein are amaranth and soy. Quinoa is also considered a complete protein.
Posted by Megan132 • 48w ago • Report
I finally know what to call my diet style - Flexitarian! Thanks Janella. I like to eat vegetarian two to three times a week and a little meat on the other days.
Posted by Carly36 • 49w ago • Report
I'm a (recent) vegetarian and it's good to know I already eat most of those foods :) Informative article!