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Going vegetarian

Written by: Fran Berkoff, QMI Agency
Jan. 13, 2013

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The start of a new year is a time for resolutions, but also a time to look at upcoming trends in the world of health, food and nutrition.

What will be the next diet trend? The next super food? Nutrition trends come and go but some of the more recent ones have some staying power. A vegetarian lifestyle and a plant-based diet are two lifestyle/eating choices that are based on strong science -- and enjoyed by people world wide.

Many of my clients are moving in that direction, some for health reasons, some for environmental reasons and some in an effort to eat more healthy foods.

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So what are the pluses of this way of eating?

Plant-based foods are generally high in fibre, vitamins, minerals and plant chemical that are all linked to good health and perhaps longevity. Lentils, legumes, soy foods, fruits, whole grains, vegetables, nuts and seeds are power- packed with healthy nutrients that are natural and taste great. Prepared well, most of these foods are low in fat (except nuts and seeds which contain heart-healthy fats) and contain no saturated fat or cholesterol. Although the diets tend to be higher in carbohydrates, these are the "good carbs", high in fibre with a low glycemic index. There are a significant number of studies linking a plant-based diet with lowering risk of heart disease and stroke, certain cancers, type 2 diabetes and obesity.

The only drawback would be adopting a diet where you eliminated all animal products but didn't replace the nutrients lost with their equivalent in plant foods. For example, the protein in plant-based carbs is not a "complete" protein, in that it is missing one of the essential amino acids (building blocks of protein) that your body requires. However, by combining legumes with foods like whole grains, seeds or nuts, you supply that missing pieces and get a complete protein. It used to be thought that you had to combine these foods at the same time, but newer science tells us that as long as you eat a variety of plant foods through the day, you will get all the amino acids and therefore all the protein you need.

Adopting this plant based diet is now made easier and tastier with a new book written by my colleague, dietitian Leslie Beck. The Plant Based Power Diet (Penguin Publishers; $24), explains all the essentials of this eating style with simple steps to help you put it into action. You'll learn for example, how to get adequate iron in your diet when you aren't eating meat and how to keep your bones healthy when you aren't eating dairy. It gives you details of the plant based food groups and provides meal plans for various calorie levels along with all the essential ingredients to stock your kitchen. If you've ever thought that this diet would not be tasty, you'll quickly change your mind when you try her recipes. From Quinoa Tabbouleh to Chickpea Curry to 3 Bean Garden Chili and Spicy Candied Walnuts, each recipe is easy to make, loaded with nutrition and most of all yummy!

 

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