Too Much of a Good Thing?
By Patty Liston
The Care2 website had some timely information on what we need to know as we transition to a more veggie-oriented way of eating. There are specific nutrients the body simply needs and we need to know what they are so we’ll be sure to include them in our weekly menus.
The Care2 experts say we must create a balance of vegetable protein, carbohydrates and quality fats with each meal. We want to also replace the six essential nutrients provided by animal proteins with plant-based foods containing the protein, iron, zinc, calcium, B12, and Essential Fatty Acids that are reduced with the elimination of meat, poultry, pork and fish.
The fun part is putting them together into delicious recipes and then chewing slowly for the full satisfying experience. (I’ve been consistently eating this way for the past six months and can attest to how satisfying and pleasant it really is.)
So to create this important balance, let’s look at what we need to include in our diets as we build our meals around vegetables:
1. PROTEIN: A crucial part of any diet, the average RDA for women is 45 grams and for men 55 grams, which you can easily consume in the form of:
- Beans, legumes, lentils and peas
- Fermented soy products in the form of tempeh, miso, and natto
- Free range eggs
- Raw milk, cheese and yogurt.
- Nuts and seeds, which benefit from soaking in water or sprouting first
- Non-dairy nut and seed milks
NOTE: Pseudo-meats and other pretend protein foods should be avoided if possible, as they are highly processed foods with a list of ingredients as long as my arm. Nutritionists, Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig, Ph.D., say that, “Phytic acid remaining in these soy products greatly inhibits zinc and iron absorption; test animals fed soy protein isolate develop enlarged organs, particularly the pancreas and thyroid gland, and increased deposition of fatty acids in the liver.”
2, and 3. IRON AND ZINC: Strong, healthy blood requires proper amounts of Iron and a vegetarian diet can provide plenty. The average RDA for women 19-50 years is 18mg, women 51+ years is 8mg and adult males is 8mg.
Because the human body does not store Zinc, it is essential to obtain it from the food you eat. Zinc is responsible for cellular metabolism, immune function, protein synthesis, wound healing, DNA synthesis and cell division. The RDA for adult women is 8mg and for men is 11mg.
- Green leafy vegetables: kale, collards, cabbage, spinach, and broccoli
- Nuts, seeds: almonds and cashews
- Beans, lentils, legumes, peas, in cooked and sprouted form
- Fruits and dried fruits: apricots, dates, and raisins
- Date syrup and molasses
- Whole grains and whole grain flours
4. CALCIUM: In a nutshell, we need calcium to maintain strong bones and teeth, and for our nervous system to function properly. The RDA for adults is 1000-1200mg and can be found in a variety of foods, such as:
- Dark greens: broccoli, kale and Chinese cabbage
- Sea Vegetables: wakame, arame, dulse, hijiki, and kelp
- Dairy products: milk, yogurt and cheese
5. VITAMIN B12: Vegans and vegetarians who do not eat eggs or dairy will need to take this essential nutrient in the form of a B complex supplement that includes the RDA for B12 of 1.5 microgram for adults. Fermented soy, shitake mushrooms, sea vegetables and algae contain something similar to B12, but it does not work in the body in the same way as B12 from animal sources. Some nutritional yeast food products contain some Vitamin B12.
6. ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS: The body needs quality fats to help absorb the ‘fat soluble’ vitamins A, D, E and K, to regulate cholesterol, provide energy, maintain heart health and a number of other important functions. Saturated fats from animal sources is limited in a vegetarian diet, but hydrogenated and trans fats in baked goods and chips should be avoided for their harmful health effects. Recommended RDA for Omega Fatty Acids is 1-2 tablespoons.
- Extra Virgin Olive oil
- Sesame oil
- Raw butter and clarified butter
- Coconut oil: a saturated vegetable oil that has proven beneficial in the diet
- Omega-3 oils: Flax, hemp and walnut oils
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