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What is vegetarianism?
Being a vegetarian means eating a diet that excludes animal meat, but which allows some products from the animal kingdom such as dairy products, eggs, honey, etc.
Different ways of being a vegetarian
The basic principle of a vegetarian diet is to replace animal proteins with vegetable proteins that are found in legumes (lentils, split peas), in pulses (chick peas, dried beans, soya, beans...) which weight for weight, contain just as much protein as meat. Proteins are also found in dairy products, eggs and nuts: walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds....
Therefore a vegetarian eats cereals, legumes, vegetables, fruit, eggs, milk, minerals...
A vegetarian endeavours to stick to the main rules of variety and balance. It is essential to eat from every category, every day, in proportions appropriate to your age, gender and level of physical activity.
There are several different vegetarian diets, based on which foods of animal origin are excluded from it:
- a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet is based on not eating animal products (meat, fish and sea food) but it does not exclude eggs and dairy products, which are products of animal origin. There are also other variations where either eggs or dairy products are excluded.
- a pesco vegetarian diet is based on not eating meat but fish is allowed as well as products of animal origin (eggs and dairy products).
- a vegan diet, which is the most restrictive, excludes both products and by-products of animal origin, in particular milk, eggs, cheese and honey. So a vegan eats cereals, legumes, vegetables, fruit and minerals.
Nutrition and Health
Anyone wishing to follow a vegetarian diet is recommended to seek advice from a dietician or a doctor so that they avoid any deficiencies and enjoy a varied and tasty range of foods.
A good diet, whether vegetarian or not, aims first and foremost for variety and balance. Based on this, everyone can include vegetarian meals from time to time in an omnivorous diet and they can be the most interesting gastronomic experiences. And economical too since legumes are much cheaper than meat.
The American Dietetic Association published a report based on over 200 studies looking at vegetarian diets. This report states that "Vegetarian diets when planned appropriately, including the vegan diet, are good for health, provide adequate nutrition and offer benefits for health and for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases".
Several sorts of legumes are available to buy: dried beans for soups, lima beans, chick peas, lentils, split peas, etc. However, since their proteins are not as complete as those found in meat, legumes have to be combined with other foods, such as nuts, seeds and cereal products (bread, rice, pasta, etc.) to get the most out of them. They can also be enriched with eggs, milk or other dairy products. By doing so the combinations become infinite You just have to get your imagination working whilst remembering that a cup of cooked legumes combined with one of these foods is the equivalent, as far as the protein value is concerned, to only 2 or 3 ounces (60-90 g) of meat.
What your body needs
Proteins are found in dairy products, eggs, bread, spirulina and legumes (lentils, rice, beans, chick peas, soya, quinoa). To meet daily requirements you need to eat every day 3 to 4 dairy products and at least one cereal based dish (wheat, oats, maize, rye, barley...) systematically combined with vegetables so as to avoid the factors limiting the two plant groups. In fact cereals contain little lysine and methionine, two amino acids that the body must have for it to make use of its proteins.
Legumes go together perfectly with cereals, nuts and seeds
- Lentils and rice
- Couscous and chick peas
- Red kidney beans
Plant groups such as cereals, root vegetables, fruit and vegetables contain a lot of carbohydrates and complex sugars.
You can get fats and fatty acids from oils; olive, sunflower or walnut oils are a good source for them, especially for omega-6 fatty acids. Linseed oil is full of omega-3.
Iron transports oxygen from the lungs to the cells in the haemoglobin.
Take care not to run the risk of iron deficiency because the body has trouble absorbing the iron contained in plants (lentils, spinach).
The recommended iron intake for vegetarians is 1.8 times greater than for non- vegetarians because of iron's low bioavailability in a vegetarian diet.
Iron is found in the plant kingdom in wheat germ, seaweed, avocadoes, beetroot, spinach, garden peas, turnip greens, pulses, tofu, tempeh, prune juice and sesame, pumpkin and sunflower seeds.
Zinc is found mainly in soya based products, legumes, cereals, cheese and nuts.
If you have 5 dairy products daily you will not have a calcium deficiency.
Vitamin D is not found in plants but it is made by the skin when exposed to the sun. Taking supplements may be advisable for people with dark skin (which produces less vitamin D) and/or who get little exposure to the sun. Vitamin D (of vegetable origin) is sometimes also found in certain manufactured foods as it has been added. However, vitamin D is found in dairy products (except in skimmed products) and in eggs.
Foods that are now enriched with vitamin D include cow's milk, certain brands of soya milk and rice milk, some breakfast cereals and margarines.
Riboflavin (vitamin B2)
You should not lack this vitamin given that it is found in almonds, pre-cooked and fortified cereals, cow's milk, yoghurts, eggs, cooked mushrooms, yeast in small flakes, fortified soya milk, asparagus, bananas, beans, broccoli, figs, kale, lentils, garden peas, seeds, sesame, sweet potatoes, tofu, tempeh, wheat germ and fortified breads.
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin)
Vitamin B12 helps our bodies to produce red blood cells and to use fats and amino acids.
Unfortunately, this vitamin does not occur in food products of vegetable origin.
It is found in milk and eggs, but you are unlikely to get enough of it from here unless you are a vegetarian who eats them in great quantities. You are recommended to make sure that you get enough by taking a vitamin B12 food supplement.
To ensure your vitamin B12 intake you have to eat dairy products and eggs.
Vitamin A / Beta Carotene
Vitamin A requirements can be met by eating three portions a day of orange or yellow vegetables, green, leafy vegetables and fruit rich in beta-carotene (apricots, melon, mango and pumpkin). Cooking increases beta-carotene absorption as does adding a little fat when preparing the vegetables. Cutting the vegetables into slices and mashing them can also increase the beta-carotene's bioavailability.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are found in fish, eggs and certain seaweed.
The new recommended daily allowances based on an intake of 2,000 kcal per day, advises daily intakes of 2.2 g to 4.4 g of omega-3 fatty acids.
Vegetarian are advised to include foods such as linseeds and linseed oil in their diet.
Seaweed and iodine enriched salt are great sources of iodine. Relying on plants for iodine is hit and miss as how much iodine they contain depends on the soil where they grow.
Large quantities of fibre are found in almost all fruit, vegetables and cereals which limits the likelihood of you not getting enough fibre.
Magnesium is found in vegetables and fruit such as bananas and almonds.
This is found mainly in rice, avocados and eggs.
Selenium is found in mushrooms, chicory and also garlic.
Fluorine, copper, chromium or bromine are found in spring or mineral water.
Diet and dietetics
Foods groups in vegetarian diets
To ensure a balanced diet, you are advised to include all the following food groups in your diet.
Wheat, oats, millet, barley, bulgur wheat, maize, rice, rye, buckwheat, amaranth, quinoa, bread, pasta... Don't restrict yourself to just eating one or two sorts of cereals.
Broccoli, cabbage, spinach, pumpkin, carrots, pumpkin, turnip, swede, tomatoes, beetroot, leeks, mushrooms, aubergine, okra, cauliflower, garden peas, green beans, etc... You may eat more than 5 portions a day as long as you don't take in any more fat. Don't eat the same vegetable for all your portions.
Orange, grapefruit, lemon, apple, pear, pineapple, peaches, plums, strawberries, blueberries, kiwi, nectarines, mango, papaya, bananas, etc... Dried Fruits: raisins, figs, dates, pineapple, prunes, apricots... which on the other hand are very sugary.
Yoghurt, cheese and milk are full of calcium.
Lentils, haricot beans, red kidney beans, adzuki beans, mungo beans, chick peas, flageolet beans, etc... Sprouted legumes (lentils, soya) are richer and should be eaten in small quantities.
Peanuts, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, chestnuts, Brazil nuts, pecan nuts, cashew nuts etc... Tahini and almond butter are especially rich in calcium.
Pine nuts, sesame, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, etc...
Soya milk, tofu, miso, textured soya protein, soya sauce (tamari, shoyu, teriyaki), soya flour, soya oil, grilled soya, natto, yuba, soya cheese...
Limit yourself to 4 eggs per week as they are high in cholesterol.
How should you divide up your food?
In each meal it is important to have suitable portions of:
- Fresh vegetables and fruits and you should eat a large quantity of them.
- Vegetable proteins found in legumes and pulses: lentils, chick peas, split peas, beans, soya..., in nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds...) and also in dairy products and eggs.
- Starchy foods (cereals, pasta, bananas, chestnuts...), dried fruit (raisins, prunes, figs).
Sample meals for a day:
Tea or coffee with sugar
Whole grain cereals (muesli, wholemeal bread)
Pulses (a lentil salad, for example)
Cereals and vegetables (tomatoes stuffed with rice, for example)
Salad of raw vegetables
A vegetarian diet in the Dukan method
You cannot follow a vegan diet with the method.
As for following a vegetarian diet in the method, here are Pierre Dukan, the nutritionist's recommendations which will be examined in greater depth in his next book and his on-line coaching:
"For the time being, you should know that you are allowed 0% fat dairy products and eggs, which is a solid base to start with. To this you can add vegetable proteins: firm or silken Tofu, Seitan and Tempeh as well as Quorn and TSP (Textured Soya Protein). Together these take care of the Pure Protein (PP) part. And when moving on to Proteins + Vegetables (PV), all you need do is stick to this base and add vegetables to it."