The Many Benefits of a Plant Based Diet

For years people have known that there are benefits to following a vegetarian lifestyle.  But how many people actually are vegetarian or vegan?

According to a 2008 Vegetarian Resource Group poll about 3% of US adults are vegetarian and 1% are vegan. More details here:

Vegetarians and Vegans have lower rates of:

  • Deaths from Heart Disease
  • High Blood Pressure
  • High Cholesterol Levels
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Prostate and Colon Cancers

Tips to Include More Plant Food

  • Purchase frozen vegetables & fruit – they last longer and are just as nutritious, if not more so.
  • Add a handful of frozen berries to your whole grain cereal.
  • Try oatmeal with frozen berries stirred in.
  • Stuff your omelet with low-fat shredded cheese, tomatoes and spinach.
  • Snack on baby carrots and hummus, which gives you both vegetables and beans!
  • Eat low-sodium bean or lentil soup for lunch. It’s quick, convenient, and it counts as a serving of beans and/or vegetables.
  • Explore different ways to use canned beans.
  • Make your next slice a veggie one!
  • Stuff a baked potato with diced tomatoes, green and red peppers, onions, broccoli and low-fat cheese.
  • Add a few leaves of kale, chard, mustard greens, collard greens, dandelion greens, or any other green leafy food to your next salad.
  • Follow the myplate method and fill at least half your plate with fruits and vegetables
  • Vary your veggies! The more color and variety, the better.

Common Deficiencies

There are some deficiencies that vegans and vegetarians may experience. B12 is at the top of the list.  B12 comes predominantly from animal products. If you eliminate all animal foods from your diet you risk deficiency and would benefit from taking a supplement. Vegan sources of B12 can be found in brewers yeast and nori. If you are a ovo-lacto vegetarian (look here for more details), then you can get B12 by consuming eggs, milk, cheese or yogurt each day.

Iron can also be deficient in vegetarians due to the fact that the main source of iron in Americans diets comes from red meat. Some vegetarian sources of iron include tofu, lentils, swiss chard, lima beans, potato, wheat germ, pinto beans, kidney beans, dandelion greens, kale, pumpkin seeds, black beans, spinach, broccoli, almonds, pumpkin, beet greens, brewers yeast, quinoa, figs, raisins, prunes and green beans.

Omega 3 fatty acids Zinc and Calcium may also be deficient.  If you have been following a vegetarian or vegan diet be sure to check with you doctor to make sure you are getting adequate amounts of these essential nutrients.

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