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The vegetarian diet: an essential guide to staying healthy

Updated on February 22, 2013
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Becoming a vegetarian is a lifestyle choice that needs careful consideration. Whatever your reasons for choosing a vegetarian diet it is important to make sure you eat a well balanced diet, so a little research before you begin is a good idea. This article aims to give you an overview of basic dietary requirements and how to be a successful vegetarian.

A vegetarian diet is a very healthy choice if done properly. The fibre rich diet ensures good inner workings, and can relieve many dietary related complaints such as type 2 diabetes, constipation, obesity, heart problems, cholesterol related problems and much more. Some studies suggest that vegetarians are less prone to certain types of cancer and heart disease.

The important elements in your diet are protein, vitamins and minerals, fibre and carbohydrates. If you make sure you get the right balance of these dietary requirements you should have no problems. Take some time to read up on the things you need, and make sure you know where to get them and how to cook them. A comprehensive vegetarian cookery book is a good place to start.

In a vegetarian diet the main sources of protein are nuts, beans, pulses, eggs and dairy products, and it is a good idea to utilise at least one of these in each meal. Dairy products are in a different food group to the others, so don't rely solely on these for your protein intake - mix it up a bit. Check out your individual protein requirements, it varies depending on gender, age, lifestyle and body weight, but you will probably find you need less than you think.

Vitamins and minerals are essential to good health, and a plentiful supply of fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds should ensure that you get all that you need. Some vitamins, where the main source is usually from meat or fish, should be noted.

  • Vitamin D, usually obtained from oily fish and liver in an omniverous diet, is available in eggs and vegetable margarines.
  • Vitamin B12 can be found in yeast extracts and dairy products.
  • Green vegetables such as cabbages, spinach and parsley are particularly rich in iron and folic acid.
  • It is important to get plenty of vitamin C from fresh fruit or juices, as this helps the body absorb iron.

Fortified breakfast cereals are also a good source of many of these vitamins and minerals, but try to avoid the sugary ones if you're trying to eat healthily! Lack of iron and certain vitamins can result in anaemia, or other deficiency related illnesses.

There are some very good alternatives to meat on the market these days, lots of soya and vegetable-protein based sausages, burgers, nut roasts etc. which make life pretty easy for the vegetarian who doesn't want to spend all day soaking lentils and chopping nuts. Most vegetarian recipes, however, are pretty easy to make, cost very little and taste delicious, so well worth the trouble if you have the time.


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    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 4 years ago from New Delhi, India

      A very useful guide about vegetarian food. I agree one has to be careful, while choosing our vegetarian food, so that we do not miss out the important nutrients.

      Thanks for listing the nutrients....sharing too!

    • Imogen French profile image

      Imogen French 4 years ago from Southwest England

      thanks rasta1 (and all previous commenters) for reading and taking the time to leave a comment, I'm glad some of you found the information useful. I have just added a few links to some easy vegetarian recipes at the end, which I hope some of you will enjoy. All the best, Imogen. x

    • rasta1 profile image

      Marvin Parke 4 years ago from Jamaica

      A nice overview of all the necessary nutrients that vegetarians need to pay special attention to.

    • acaetnna profile image

      acaetnna 5 years ago from Guildford

      I am a vegetarian through and through. Brilliant hub - thank you.

    • RobinGrosswirth23 profile image

      Robin Grosswirth 5 years ago from New York

      This is a good overview of a vegetarian lifestyle. Useful hub. Thanks.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Useful hub! It is a wonderful lifestyle choice--so positive in its health benefits

    • profile image

      Debra 5 years ago

      Thanks for the great post! I think that a great course for new vegetarians is The Vegetarian's Beginner's Guide 30 Day Course A good friend of mine told me about it