So you have made the decision to become a vegetarian. Great choice.
Or is it that you are thinking about it but have not yet made up your mind because you are not sure what to eat as a vegetarian.
No problem. Read on to find out the benefits of being a vegetarian as well as a list of foods that vegetarians eat.
Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet
Numerous studies have been done that shows the incredible health benefits of a vegetarian diet. If you go to the doctor today with any of the lifestyle diseases such asType 2 diabetes, High Blood Pressure (Hypertension), High Cholesterol, to name a few, chances are he will recommend that you go on a vegetarian diet.
Would you be surprised if I included cancer in the list? Don’t be. Hundreds of studies suggest that eating lots of fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of developing certain cancers, and there’s evidence that vegetarians have a lower incidence of cancer than non-vegetarians do.
If you have weight issues and need to lose weight, adopting a vegetarian diet has proven to be a successful method to do so
Consider heart disease. It is the number one killer. But studies show that vegetarians are, on average, 25% less likely to die of heart disease.
Research suggests that a predominantly plant-based diet can reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes. In studies of Seventh-day Adventists by Loma Linda University, vegetarians’ risk of developing diabetes was half that of non-vegetarians
Because vegetarians consume less saturated fat and cholesterol they’re likely to have lower total cholesterol, lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and lower body mass index (BMI), all of which are associated with longevity and a reduced risk for the diseases that were listed as well as other chronic diseases.
We could spend the entire time talking about the health benefits but you are here for other reasons so Let’s move on.
Let’s quickly list some other benefits though before we go.
In addition to the health benefits, a vegetarian diet offers financial advantages as well. Many vegetarian foods cost far less than animal products, allowing consumers to cut their household expenses.
Meals are ready much faster
The long process of thawing out, seasoning and the long cooking of meat is over.
A full vegetarian meal can be put together in minutes.
Fewer worries about contamination of raw food
Many incidents of bacterial contamination result during the handling of raw meat, poultry and fish. You have to ensure that these meats are thoroughly cooked and at certain temperatures to reduce the risk of disease.
No such problems as a vegetarian. As a matter of fact you can intentionally under-cook your food……..or even have it raw.
Okay. Just one last quick benefit.
It is great to be able to eat your food without thinking how the poor chicken had its neck chopped off or how the cow was brutally slaughtered to provide dinner for you. I can assure you, chopping up a head of broccoli will not result in any guilty feelings.
Before we make the list of what vegetarians eat, you need to understand that there are different categories of vegetarians and this will determine what they can or cannot eat.
First let us define a vegetarian.
A vegetarian is someone who does not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, or by-products of animal slaughter but instead lives on a plant-based diet of grains, peas, beans, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits, and other non-animal-based foods.
Some vegetarians are lacto-ovo which means they do not eat meat or fish but they eat dairy products and eggs.
A lacto vegetarian will eat dairy products but not eggs.
An ovo vegetarian will eat eggs but not dairy.
A vegan is the strictest type of vegetarian and will eat no animal products whatever.
Actually, the vegans might disagree as there is more to veganism than just not eating meat. See the difference between Vegetarian and Vegan here.
Maybe we should call the last category a strict plant-based vegetarian.
So what can you eat?
If you are a lacto-ovo vegetarian, you already know that in addition to the foods we are going to list, you can also eat eggs, milk, butter, cheese.
For those who are strictly plant-based vegetarians……..
Let’s get on with the list.
Very popular with vegetarians. It’s delicious, versatile, easy to cook and is high in protein and fiber. Lentil is also a good source of calcium, phosphorus, iron and B vitamins and is used in many recipes such as stews, soups, lentil loaf and lentil patties.
- Chickpeas (Garbanzo bean)
Chickpeas is famous for its role in hummus. Chickpea curry is also a favourite for vegetarians. This bean contains vitamin K, folate, phosphorus, zinc, copper, manganese, choline, and selenium. It is an excellent source of protein and fiber and contains exceptional levels of iron, vitamin B-6, and magnesium
- Black beans
This is another excellent source of protein, fiber, folate, copper, manganese, vitamin B1, magnesium, phosphorus and iron. It is a very versatile bean which is used in many recipes. It is also popular for the famous black bean burgers.
- Other Legumes
There are so many varieties of peas and beans to choose from. There is broad beans, pinto beans, navy beans, kidney beans, split peas, black eye peas, cow peas…….and guess what? They all taste different. A whole lot of different soups and stews can be made from these legumes. These nutritional powerhouses are packed with protein, fiber, B vitamins, iron and potassium.
Tofu is a soy product. It is a good source of protein and contains all eight essential amino acids. It is an excellent source of iron and calcium and the minerals manganese, selenium and phosphorous. It is also a good source of magnesium, copper, zinc and vitamin B1. There are numerous ways to prepare tofu and this ingredient appears in many recipes. Two of the simplest and quickest ways to prepare tofu is to fry it or scramble it. Both ways are delicious.
Mushroom belongs to the fungi family. They provide several important nutrients, including selenium, potassium, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin D. There are several varieties and they can be prepared in different ways; grilled, stir-fried, sauteed….. They can be used by themselves or utilized in several recipes.
There are so many to choose from; almonds, walnut, pecans, cashew and the list goes on. Not only are they eaten as snacks but they can also be used to make milk and nut butter. The nut loaf is a popular vegetarian choice for the dinner menu especially at Christmas time. These energy rich superfoods are packed with healthy fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals.
Leafy greens such as spinach, broccoli, kale and collards, are rich in iron. They are also a great source of cancer-fighting antioxidants. They are high in folic acid and vitamin A and even contain calcium. Steam them, eat them raw in salads….whichever way you choose.
You can certainly go wild here. Any and every fruit is at your disposal providing you with lots of nutrients in the from of vitamins, minerals, antioxidant, phytochemicals and fiber which are essential for good health.
Example flax, chia, sunflower, pumpkin, sesame……talk about a nutritional powerhouse. They can be used in a number of ways. Add them to your trail mix, eat them raw, eat them roasted, add them to your smoothies. As a matter of fact did you know that flax seed can even be used as an egg replacer? Seeds are a great source of protein and heart healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Also a great source of essential amino acids and minerals, including calcium, zinc, copper and magnesium.
Whole grains such as brown rice, bulgar, quinoa, oats, whole wheat pasta, whole grain breads such as 100% whole wheat bread. Grains are high in fiber and an important source of B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and folate) and minerals (iron, magnesium and selenium).
This one is somewhat of a new kid on the block. Not the fruit itself, but its use as a meat substitute. This wonder fruit is rich in energy, dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals and is becoming very popular in vegan dishes.
There you have it.
This should give you a good idea of what you can eat as a vegetarian.
But let me point out something interesting. Did you notice that most of the foods you eat as a vegetarian are the same ones you eat as a non-vegetarian? Just take a look at the list again. What do you think?
Do you eat fruits, vegetables, nuts? What about bread. Have you ever had that… or rice? What about peas and beans? Ever had a good bowl of chili?
Do you see what I am talking about? There are lots of similarities to non-vegetarian meals.
The main difference really is in the protein part of the meal. And all you do is just take out the meat and replace it with another protein source.
And to think you were concerned about what to eat as a vegetarian when you were already eating most of the foods that vegetarians eat.
Well now you know. Have fun in the kitchen.
Let me know if this article has been helpful or leave your suggestions or question sin the comments section below.