** South of the border it was Bill Clinton who catalyzed a national discussion on vegetarianism and is currently the highest profile and visible vegetarian around. After suffering a near fatal heart attack former president Clinton knew he needed to do something about his health and if his speech at the DNC is any indication – it worked!
Enter Vegetarianism Vegetarians are no longer a fringe group of rabbit-food eaters. Vegetarians are one of the fast growing segments of the health food industry and command astonishing leverage and buying power. More and more people are fed up with being sick and tired and have taken matters into their own hands to do so – and I support them.
To help new vegetarians get a good grasp on things I have decided to talk about 4 main nutrients that they need to make sure that they are getting. I outline them below:
There are a number of excellent plant sources for iron. There are many beans and legumes that are particularly good, like black, garbanzo, pinto, white and kidney beans (also high in fibre and protein). A lot of the organic tofu you buy has iron in it as well. Other sources are nuts and seeds, miso, tempeh, pumpkin and dark leafy green vegetables.
If you need supplemental support in this area I would recommend Floradix. I have been suggesting it to vegetarians for years. It is made in Germany by Salus and is the best liquid, highly absorbable, plant-based iron on the planet. It can be found at your local health food store.
When it comes to eating whole food the best way to increase the iron absorption almost 300% is to eat vitamin C rich food along with iron rich food. There is a reason we put mandarin oranges or strawberries on a spinach salad!
Non-fish Omega-3 Just by becoming a vegetarian doesn’t mean you will not need an omega-3 supplement. There is still have an overabundance of omega-6 oils in the North American diet – vegetarian or otherwise.
Omega-3s are vitally important moderators of inflammation and the immune system. They help us deal with stress more readily and help to keep us calm in times of upheaval. Omega-3 are also important to brain and gut function.
The good news is that there are many plant-based sources of omega-3. The bad news is that most vegetarians aren’t eating enough of them. To begin with a vegetarian should be having flax, chia or hemp every single day. Besides the obvious omega-3 benefits, those seeds are also packed with protein and essential minerals. Consider taking Udo’s Oil or omega-3 from algae if you need supplemental support.
Protein One of the most commonly fielded questions by new vegetarians is “where are you going to get your protein?”
Let me set the record straight once and for all. There is no problem, what-so-ever, for vegetarians to get enough protein from a plant-based diet. Vegetarian athletes, the world over, are competing today at the highest level of sport. Meat is not essential for muscle growth. Period.
A plant-based protein shake is a good way for athletes to get a good source of complete protein while meeting their post-workout anabolic needs. Also, any new vegetarian who is looking to lose a few pounds can also benefit. My favourite vegetarian protein options are Vega ONE and Sun Warrior and I use them regularly. They can be found at most health food stores.
Vitamin B12 Also called cobalamin, vitamin b12 has numerous vital functions within the body. B12 is water-soluble and plays a vital role in the normal functioning of the brain, nervous system, the formation of new blood, DNA synthesis, fatty acid synthesis and energy production.
Arguably the most difficult nutrient for vegans to obtain, vitamin b12 is readily available in foods that come from animals. However, it is much harder to come by on a vegetarian diet. There is some evidence that we can obtain some b12 from our gut through bacterial fermentation processes, however it doesn’t (at this time) appear to be nearly enough to support vital bodily functions. It has been documented that severe nerve damage can result from inadequate b12 in the diet. This nerve damage is the result of demyelination of nerves since b12 is the critical vitamin responsible for process of myelination. Without the myelin sheath the nerve loses its ability to efficiently conduct the signal from the brain that causes things like movement deficits.
Therefore it is imperative for all vegetarians (especially vegans) to take a b12 supplement. The ideal form is called methylcobalamin and can be found at many local health food stores. Make sure it is of the sublingual (under the tongue) since that is the best path for absorption for this particular nutrient.
Cooking Classes If you are a new vegetarian it is really important to get plugged into the community. There are many people who are making the switch and it is fun to swap recipes and such. I know that there are a few happening in and around town. I know for sure that there is one starting in Ingersoll on September 17th in the Community Room at the Hurley’s Independent Grocer there. Message me dave[at]vitalityplus.com if you need additional details. I think it is a great community event and cooking classes are a great way get new ideas and to meet new people.
Until next time remember the words of author Michael Pollan – Eat food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants