Vegetarian diet, what to keep in mind

The option of vegetarian food has more and more followers. Whether for health, ethics or other reasons, many people consider this option.

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In any case, we must bear in mind that in order to make the change of diet, towards the vegetarian diet, there must be good planning, especially at the beginning, until the new eating habits are consolidated.

  1. The transition to a vegetarian diet
  2. Key nutrients in the vegetarian diet

The transition to a vegetarian diet

There are several vegetarian tendencies, but the most followed ones are ovolactovegetarianism and veganism, although in general the vegetarian diet is that free of meat, fish and its derivatives, there are many varieties.

To move to this type of diet, you must first be well informed, being the most appropriate to go to a nutritionist with whom to learn how to make the transition. Changing from one day to the next without taking into account certain dietary aspects can lead to health risks. Good planning and distribution of different food groups is essential so that there are no nutritional deficiencies. In addition, in most cases, new foods are introduced, almost always vegetable protein sources that require some adaptation to new flavors.

Key nutrients in the vegetarian diet

A vegetarian diet can be followed either by cooking at home or by ordering food at home . The important thing is that this diet provides us with the essential nutrients that our body needs. The essential nutrients in the vegetarian diet are the following:

  • Proteins
    • Proteins are composed of amino acids, and proteins of plant origin are not of high biological value, and usually have limiting amino acids, which vary depending on the food. That is why the combination of different vegetable sources in the same food is recommended, to guarantee the contribution of all the essential amino acids. For example, legumes with cereals, quinoa, nuts and / or seeds. Other protein sources that are commonly used in vegetarian food are seitan, wheat gluten vegetable protein; and soybeans and their derivatives (soy drink, tofu, tempeh, natto, etc …)
  • Iron
    • It must be borne in mind that the iron of these foods of vegetable origin is the so-called “non-heme”, with less bioavailability than the “heme” iron of those of animal origin. An acidic medium improves the absorption of iron, since the iron passes “non-heme” to “heme”, that’s why it is recommended to take foods rich in vitamin C (ascorbic acid), along with iron-rich foods , for example to dress some dishes with lemon or orange juice. Some foods rich in vitamin C are pepper, tomato, parsley, lemon, kiwi, orange.
    • Sources of vegetable origin with iron: leafy vegetables (spinach, Swiss chard, …), red cabbage, parsley, legumes.

 

  • B12 vitamin
    • This vitamin is important for metabolism , helps the formation of red blood cells in the blood and the maintenance of the central nervous system. It is found in animal tissues (liver, meat, organ meats, fish, eggs and in smaller quantities milk and derivatives) and is also synthesized in the colon but is not available for absorption, so the daily nutritional requirement must be obtained from the diet. The vegan diet is deficient in vitamin B12, since it does not cover the recommended daily intake of this vitamin (between 1.5 and 3 micrograms). Not even these values ​​are reached if they consume eggs or cheeses at the rate of three servings a day. Therefore, it is recommended to take supplements of B12 through cyanocobalamin since it is the most studied form as a supplement, the most economical and easy to find and the chemical form more stable and resistant to temperature, light and pH changes .
  • Calcium and vitamin D
    • The calcium intake of the vegan diet tends to be lower than that of the ovolactovegetarian that includes dairy products, and may be below the recommended intake. Many vegans can meet their calcium needs by consuming calcium-fortified foods or a dietary supplement. But equally, nuts (hazelnuts, almonds, etc …), legumes or sesame seeds are also a source of calcium . Even so, it must be taken into account that there are components of the diet that hinder the absorption of calcium, such as:
  • A high intake of sodium (salt) can also promote urinary losses of calcium.
  • A diet rich in phytates (contained in fiber) decreases the bioavailability of calcium among other nutrients such as iron
  • On the other hand, vitamin D intervenes in the absorption of minerals and bone mineralization. Our body gets part of the vitamin D through skin synthesis when we expose ourselves to the sun, the rest is obtained through food. In the case of ovolactovegetarian diets, eggs, butter, cheese, margarines enriched mainly, and in the case of vegans, from sources of plant origin such as mushrooms, or foods fortified with vitamin D (soy or rice drinks, juices , cereals).

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