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The reason I became a vegetarian was because I was found to have high blood pressure,
and being genetically predisposed to cardiovascular disease, I was advised to cut
down on meat consumption.
As an omnivore leaning towards carnivorism for all my 38 years, going cold turkey
(no pun intended) or trying to wean myself off pot roasts, burger steaks, pork tenderloins,
chilli dogs, and buffalo wings was daunting. But because I love my life too much
to die too soon, I knew I have to do something about it and change my unhealthy red-meat-eating
habits forever. That was why I became a vegetarian and there’s no looking back since.
I can very proudly say I have no major health issues and I never felt better in my
life. I sleep well, I have more energy, mental clarity, healthier skin and hair.
In fact, I feel and look younger than my actual age.
If you’re thinking of committing to a vegetarian diet for health reasons, I’ll be
more than happy to share with you a few tips on how to have a healthy vegetarian
Many people think that vegetarianism is just about eliminating meat completely off
their plates. However, being a vegetarian is more than that. It involves knowing
what to eat so that you don’t miss out on key nutrients that your body needs to stay
healthy while going meatless.
In general, vegetarians falls into 4 (or more) groups – vegans, lacto-vegetarians,
lacto-ovo vegetarian and flexitarian (semi-vegetarian). For the sake of simplicity,
I won’t be going into details here. Just remember, the more restrictive the vegetarian
diet, the more difficult it is to get all the nutrients your body requires.
How to Plan for a Healthy Vegetarian Diet
The first thing to go is obviously the meats. So, to replace protein from meat sources,
stock up your pantry with protein-rich plant-based foods such as tofu, tempehs, milk,
cheeses, eggs, legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
Also make sure to consume enough complete proteins (have all 8 of the essential amino
acids), which can be found in a variety of food sources including quinoa, hemp, buck
wheat, and hummus. Protein is needed for maintaining healthy skin, bones, muscles
You need calcium for strong healthy bones and teeth. Dark colored veggies, such as
kale, collard greens, spinach, broccoli, and turnips are very rich in calcium.
You can also get calcium from low-fat dairy foods, calcium-fortified tofu, soy milk
and fruits juices.
3. Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)
Insufficient Vitamin B12 puts you at risk for anemia. Your body needs Vit B12 to
produce red blood cells.
If you’re a vegan, you can find Vitamin B12 in enriched cereals, fortified soy products
or consider using a supplement.
Iron promotes growth and provides resistance against many diseases. Black strap molasses,
raisins, apricots, sunflower seeds, and wheat germ are rich sources of iron. Parsley,
eggs, dried beans and peas, lentils, enriched cereals, as well as whole-grain products
also have dietary iron in them.
To help your body better absorb iron, always eat with foods containing Vitamin C
such as strawberries, citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits, lemons), tomatoes, cabbage
and broccoli at the same meal.
Zinc boosts your immune system and aids in the healing process. It also keeps the
skin healthy and helps maintain good eye health.
Get your zinc from dried seaweed, seeds (pumpkin, sesame, sunflower) and nuts (pine
nuts, almonds), whole grains, wholemeal bread, brown rice, lentils, wheat germ and
In summary, for a balanced vegetarian diet, eat 2 or more servings of legumes, 3
or more servings of fruits and veggies, 6 to 11 servings of whole grains daily. By
doing that, you can be sure of getting the various nutrients neccessary for your
My advice to all budding vegetarians is not to rush into vegetarianism. Do it slowly.
Always allow yourself some time – say 3 days per week (for the first couple of weeks)
– to being a vegetarianand then gradually progress to the next level. That way,
your body won’t feel deprived and you’ll very soon notice that you don’t even have
cravings for meat-based dishes any more.
However, if you find yourself not ready for a vegetarian diet, then I would highly
suggest you look at a pescatarian diet which cuts out all meats except seafood, allowing
you to reap the many health benefits of consuming fish (Omega 3 fatty acids for heart,
brain and joint health). Go for fish with the lowest mercury content such as herring,
mackerel, pollock, salmon and sardine. Trout, whitefish and tilapia are also excellent
choices. Avoid tuna (ahi), swordfish and tilefish as they contain higher levels of
If you're wondering what is good to eat with raisins, but eating them straight out
of the box doesn't appeal to you, then get inspired with these interesting recipes,
and start enjoying the health benefits of raisins in your everyday meals.