I couldn’t possibly be as biased as The Two Fat Ladies (a BBC cookery programme from the 1990s – see clips of their hilarious comments on vegetarians here) but I must admit to having a couple of concerns about vegetarian diets. I’m talking here about ‘western’ diets … not traditional vegetarian diets around the world.
I think the main issue is protein. It’s a really important macronutrient (fat and carbohydrate are the other two macronutrients) made up of combinations of 20 amino acids, of which 9 are “essential” which means we must eat them in our diet. We need amino acids to make new cells (something we’re doing every day, all day long). If there aren’t enough or the amino acids required, the new cells we make will be faulty … and this leads to disease. Cancer is a defect in cell reproduction … to learn more about how we make new cells from amino acids (protein), watch this brilliant video.
The fact is protein from animal sources is “complete” (contains all the 20 amino acids we need). Vegetarians will argue that they can get these from combining whole grains, pulses, nuts and seeds … yes, they can. However, I have only ever met one vegetarian whose diet consists of vegetables and these foods. Most British vegetarians seem to live on “replacement” foods – highly processed, manufactured from goodness knows what stuff made to look and taste like meat or carbohydrates with dairy (jacket potato and cheese, pizza, pasta, etc). These foods are low in lots of nutrition, high in anti-nutrients and people can end up overweight, lacking energy and really ill.
There are usually two main reasons why people choose a completely vegetarian diet here in the UK. One big reason is animal welfare. I get this. I love animals. In fact, all my babies have had four legs and fur! I would never buy eggs from caged hens, having kept hens myself. And I buy the best animal products I can afford – as close to the source as possible, whenever possible. However, it is a fact of life that human animals are higher up the food chain than farm animals … in fact, we give farm animals life … we engineered their species in most cases … in order to sustain our own lives. That’s just the way it is – and always has been.
The other reason for being vegetarian is because of the mistaken belief that meat is bad for us and that fat is the enemy of health. This is a leftover piece of bad science from the 1960s and I sincerely hope it will be lost forever soon. Read more about why fat is NOT the enemy in my article.
I admire and often refer to Dr Adamo’s work on blood type diets. I know it works for me – I’m O+ and I definitely feel best on a diet of meat, fish, eggs and vegetables. Dr Adamo says those with blood group A are likely to be healthier on a diet lower in animal products and higher in whole grains, pulses, nuts and seeds. However, complete proteins are still required – we need all the amino acids every day.
Here’s some helpful information:
- the recommended daily intake of protein is 0.75g per kilogram of body weight (you may need more if you exercise regularly or you’re looking to gain weight/muscle). So, if you weigh 75kg, you need 56.25g of protein per day. Two eggs provide 26g of complete protein (you’d need to eat 1kg of cooked brown rice to get the same quantity of protein and it would still be lacking in some amino acids)
- amaranth, quinoa, soya, dried split peas and chickpeas are the best sources of vegan protein
- eating eggs, cheese and a combination and wide variety of whole grains, pulses (lentils, beans, peas) and nuts and seeds every day is the best way vegetarians can ensure they get all the amino acids
- read more on the Vegetarian Society‘s website
Pulses and grains contain naturally-occurring chemicals which can cause digestive problems and intolerances. If they give you excessive amounts of indigestion, bloating and wind, book in for a kinesiology session with me. We can look at food intolerances and ways to get your gut healthy again. If you live too far away from me, taking a course of probiotics with a prebiotic may help. I can recommend this product. Contact me and I’ll send you a discount code for ordering from this website.