The other day after speaking with one of my girl-friends, I reflected on the conversation and some moments from my personal life. We mainly talked about different foods and recipes that could be easy and nutrient dense for the lifestyle she chose to lead – a clean vegetarian with no animal products. I am supportive of my friends and am very interested how they accommodate their nutritional needs that are in direct proportion to the things they do in life. Family is the major concern.
With small children who require quality nutrients to feed and grow their demanding bodies, going vegetarian calls for a serious evaluation of all the foods that are being fed to a growing organism. If some of the vital ingredients are missing, it could lead to serious physical conditions and even illness.
Vanessa Carr, a practicing dietitian and clinician, who is a Clinical Nutrition Manager of Kate Farms, shares her vegetarian lifestyle as a mom who strives to feed her family food bursting with nutrients necessary for optimal well-being.
Diets which have a larger focus on plant-based sources of nutrition may help reduce blood pressure, levels of cholesterol in the body, and HbA1c levels (a long-term measure of blood sugar control in those with diabetes). Versions of diets, other than vegetarianism, which put more focus on plant-based nutrition, include the DASH diet (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) and the Mediterranean diet. For those who want to live a vegetarian lifestyle, here are some ways you can optimize your approach to avoid nutritional deficiencies.
Incorporate a source of protein at every meal and snack
Making sure there is a source of protein at each meal and snack can help you meet your daily requirement of protein. Dietary protein can help improve satiety, or the sensation of feeling full after a meal. However, all dietary protein is not the same when it comes to bioavailability of the protein itself. This means that the amount which is usable by the human body varies depending on source. For vegetarians, this is why there has always been the mantra of combining complimentary proteins like rice and beans or soy and rice.
Combine sources of protein for an optimum amino acid profile
Animal proteins have the optimum profile of indispensable amino acids (IAA), and so can some sources of vegetable or plant protein. Additionally, combining sources of vegetable protein can also improve the amount and kinds of the IAAs available. One way of measuring protein quality (or how much is usable) is with a method called the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score or PDCAAS.
A value closest to 100% or 1.0 is the goal. Soy protein concentrate, soybeans, chickpeas, black beans, and pea protein concentrate can have levels upwards of 75% or 0.75. Alternatively, sources of plant protein like hemp protein concentrate and whole almonds have PDCAAS which are much lower.
However, some plant protein concentrates/isolates found in supplements can have an even better PDCAAS closer to 1.0 because of added amino acids. Kate Farms has partnered with leading Food Scientists to create a plant based protein shake that offers a PDCAAS of 0.98 or 98% from pea and brown rice protein.
Some leading combinations of plant protein sources for combinations of IAAs include:
• Sweet whole kernel corn and tomatoes
• Apples and coconut meat
• Oranges and edamame
• Sweet whole kernel corn and sweet peppers
Supplements with B12, iron, zinc, calcium, Omega-3
Consult with your Dietitian on the possible need for additional supplementation with micronutrients such as B12, iron, zinc, calcium, and omega-3.
Finding a bioavailable supplemental source of B12 if you follow a vegan diet can be challenging. For vegetarians, if you consume eggs, you can get a food source of it there.
However, it is recommended that those following a vegetarian or vegan diet consult with a dietitian who specializes in this area in order to look at a 3-day diet recall and analyze it for potential long-term deficiencies.
Dietary iron can be found in beans, leafy vegetables, and dried fruit. Additionally, fortified breakfast cereals now have B12 and iron in them in a bioavailable form for vegetarians. Leafy green vegetables, soybeans, and fortified cereals also have calcium in them, of which a vegetarian may be at risk for developing a deficiency. Dietary zinc can be found in nuts, whole grains, and beans and is another important nutrient that should be considered to look for when supplementing.
Omega-3 is one of the essential fatty acids we need to consume with food or via supplements as we cannot synthesize it on our own. Omega-3 mainly comes from fatty fish, but in the world of vegetarianism, some sources can be walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and hemp seeds. However, a larger or more frequent serving may be necessary as the source of omega-3 in these is alpha-linolenic acid or APA. The body can convert it to DHA and EPA, but it does not do this very well.
Utilize spices and herbs to promote additional meal and snack-time variety
As a dietitian and clinician, I wish more people knew of the benefits of plants, herbs, and spices when it comes to phytonutrients. Herbs and spices like curcumin, garlic, oregano, and so many others offer a host of benefits unrelated to a vitamin, mineral, or protein content. They offer a source of antioxidants from the compounds they contain called phytonutrients, which may help to reduce inflammation in the body. These phytonutrient compounds are also responsible for the odor, taste, and color of these foods.
By utilizing different herbs and spices for meal times, you can increase the variety in your kitchen. For example, using garlic and basil with tomatoes and potatoes one night in a roast will offer a completely different flavor profile vs. using coconut milk and curry powder with the same foods. Kate Farms has found a way to deliver phytonutrients from 29 fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices in each of their shakes so that you are gaining the benefit of that along with the benefit of bioavailable plant-based protein.
You can live your best vegetarian life by making sure to have a source of protein at each meal and snack, working to combine different and complementary sources of vegetable proteins, consulting with a nutrition expert on the possible “holes” in your diet to avoid deficiencies, and by adding in various herbs and spices. This can contribute to a great source of phytonutrients and fiber to your diet, which is what some researchers have speculated as correlating with the clinical improvements of reduced inflammation, improved heart health, and decreased risk for developing cancer.
Vegetarian Lifestyle Can Be Powerful
HOW-TO Live Your Best Vegetarian Life – Learn a few things you gotta know before you become a #vegetarian! Vanessa Carr of @katefarms highlights some key points #HeartThis #diet #deficiencies #weightloss #HealthyLiving #AMCoffee #Health https://t.co/iE4YFkZ3AJ pic.twitter.com/b3xvTv0cYh
— Celebrate Woman (@DiscoverSelf) December 19, 2017