How to get the nutrients you need
SWITCHING TO A PARTIAL OR COMPLETELY vegetarian diet usually comes with the promise of a healthy glow. Eating this way is touted as a fast-track to losing weight and lowering your risk of heart disease and cancer. While this may be the case if you make the transition the healthy way, the validity of all these claims is under scrutiny. This summer, scientists from the Harvard TH Chan School of Nutrition revealed that people whose diets included the most healthy plant-based foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and nuts, were 25% less likely to end up with heart disease than those whose diets contained the least amount of those foods. However, as regular readers of Healthy Food Guide will know, there’s nutritional nitty-gritty you do need to bear in mind to stay well, both physically and mentally, too…
How you make the transition to a diet that’s higher in vegetables (even if you include some meat or fish) is crucial
BECOMING VEGETARIAN It helps to make the transition slowly. You may want to consider taking a daily supplement of vitamins and minerals as well as omega-3s when you start off to help you plug any nutritional gaps.
GOING VEGAN You need to be particularly vigilant about vitamin B12, iodine, and omega-3s, which can be lacking in a poorly planned vegan diet. Not taking care of your vitamin B12 intake will not just make you feel a bit off-color as, over time, deficiencies can lead to irreversible nerve damage. See how to boost your intake, right, to be sure you’re covered.
BEING FLEXITARIAN You may think that by eating meat occasionally all will be well in the nutrition department. This isn’t always true. Your iron and selenium intakes may be low, (see right) and, as you eat less and less meat, fish and other animal foods like dairy, you may also need to consider whether you’re getting enough vitamin B12 (see right).
EATING PESCATARIAN Relying on fish for your main source of protein is fine, but certain groups of people need to be careful not to eat too much of certain types of fish. Advice for the general population is to eat at least one 140g portion of oily fish a week to ensure we get the recommended intake of omega-3. However, because this group of fish (and some other types of fish and shellfish) can contain low levels of pollutants that collect in their bodies over time, it’s recommended that we have no more than four servings a week. Women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning a pregnancy should lower this to no more than two servings. For more specific advice on following a nutritionally safe pescatarian diet.