Every time there are more cases in consultation with people who want to start a vegetarian or vegan diet, or parents who come because their children want to follow these diets. Many times these patients do not know where to start or do not know if the diet they are taking is healthy. We have detected that there are a series of errors that are usually common when starting a vegetarian diet.
1. I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT SOURCES OF PROTEIN TO USE
Well, protein can be found in many vegetable sources such as legumes, nuts and in processed foods such as tofu, seitan, tempeh or textured soy. In addition, in the case of vegetarians, there are also foods of animal origin that can provide us with protein such as eggs and dairy.
Is all the protein of equal quality?
Animal protein is always complete. This means that it provides us with all the essential amino acids that our bodies cannot synthesize. Vegetable protein can also be complete, such as soy, chickpeas, some types of beans, pistachios, quinoa, hemp seeds and amaranth, but it is not always so. Proteins that are not complete is because they lack some amino acid. If we combine proteins deficient in a certain amino acid with others that are not, we will get a good quality protein.
How to combine protein foods to make them complete
These are some of the possible combinations you can do. It is not necessary to do it in the same food.
-Legumes + Cereals. For example: hummus spread on bread, lentils with rice, etc.
-Legumes + nuts. For example: lentil salad with nuts.
-Cereals + nuts. For example: rice with cashews, oat flakes with hazelnuts, etc.
2. I DON’T KNOW WHAT AMOUNT OF PROTEIN I NEED
I am sure that many of you wonder how much protein you need to consume. Well, a guide that we can use to follow a balanced diet may be the idea of the dish. Half the plate would be filled by vegetables (which can be in the form of salads, purees, stir-fries) a quarter would be carbohydrates (whole grains, bread, potatoes) and the fourth missing would be the proteins that we have given you named above.
This is the easy way to ensure a sufficient protein supply (making the protein source occupy approximately a quarter of the surface of your plate).
3. USE CHEESE AS THE ONLY SNACK OPTION
What can I make the sandwich if it is not turkey, ham or tuna? Well, many people opt for cheese and it is also a very popular option to snack between meals.
This is bad? No, because as we have seen before, cheese can be a source of protein but it is also a source of fat, especially if the cheese is cured. For this reason, we should moderate the consumption of this type of cheese a little.
When preparing some toast or a sandwich, so that it does not become repetitive, you have several options other than cheese such as:
- Use nut cream with fruit
- Spread hummus and top with grilled zucchini or eggplant
- Spread avocado and chop tomato or kiwi on top
4. DO NOT EAT ENOUGH VEGETABLES, and FRUIT
Being a vegetarian is not synonymous with eating vegetables at all hours. As with many other people, a vegetarian can:
Have some toast with margarine and jam + coffee with oatmeal drink
Mid morning have some vegan cookies + another coffee
Food: spaghetti with pesto + chocolate soy yogurt
Dinner: vegan sausages with potatoes
5. TAKE TOO MANY VEGETARIAN / VEGAN PROCESSES
Another common mistake when starting a vegetarian diet is to start consuming too many processed veggies, such as hamburgers or sausages, to incorporate protein into the diet. Being of plant origin, there are people who think that they are already healthy options. In addition, in the market, there is more and more offer of this type of products but they are not always the best option.
Are vegetarian processed foods healthy?
In case you want to consume this type of products you have to do it occasionally and choosing the one that we see is of better quality looking at the nutritional labeling.
If you are going to buy a tofu burger it is important that in the list of ingredients the tofu comes first and if it is possible that it has more than 50% tofu. The rest of ingredients such as starches, flours or oils, what they do is reduce the protein content of the food.
6. TO THINK THAT THE IRON OF PLANT ORIGIN IS ABSORBED THE SAME AS THAT OF ANIMAL ORIGIN
Iron deficiency anemia is one of the most common nutritional deficiency diseases. Many people mistakenly think that iron levels can only be improved by consuming red meat and guts regularly.
It has been observed in studies that the incidence of anemia in vegetarians and omnivores is very similar but it is important to know that heme iron or of animal origin (15-35%) has a better absorption than non-heme iron or of plant origin (1 -twenty%).
Iron levels are highly dependent on intestinal regulation and therefore the amount of non-heme iron that is absorbed is related to the individual needs of each moment.
Regarding the absorption of non-heme iron, there are components in certain foods such as phytates (whole grains, legumes and nuts) and tannins (coffee, tea, chocolate) that reduce absorption.
The incorporation of foods rich in vit C, not only counteracts the effect of phytates and tannins, but improves the absorption of non-heme iron.
Therefore, if we combine iron-rich foods such as green leafy vegetables, nuts, legumes, dried fruit or whole grains with foods rich in vit C, we will improve the absorption of this iron at the intestinal level. Some foods rich in vit C are citrus fruits or vegetables such as red pepper, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, red cabbage or tomato.
7. DO NOT TAKE DRIED FRUITS OR SEEDS
Omega 3s are a type of essential fatty acids, that is, that our body cannot manufacture and therefore, we have to ingest in our diet. When a vegetarian diet is not followed, omega 3 are obtained mainly through fish, but in the case of plant-based foods, what we can find is in nuts such as walnuts and chia or flax seeds.
For this reason, it is very important that you consume 1 handful of walnuts every day or that you add flax or chia seeds for example at breakfast or in a salad. It is very important that when you put seeds, crush them or put them to soak in order to absorb the nutrients.
What are Omega 3 fatty acids?
Omega 3s are a type of essential polyunsaturated fatty acids, that is, it is essential that we ingest them because our body is not capable of manufacturing them.
There are different types of omega 3, but we will focus on ALA, DHA and EPA. The latter two are found in fish oils, breast milk, and grass-fed meats. ALA is found in plant foods such as nuts and seeds and can be metabolized to its bi-active derivatives, mainly DHA.
How to meet the needs of Omega 3?
To cover well the contribution of active Omega 3 in a vegetarian it is recommended:
1- Reduce the consumption of oils rich in omega 6, since they compete by the metabolization pathway with omega 3: seed oils (sunflower), corn or soy, margarines and other industrial fats.
2- Ensure ALA intake (1-1.5g / day):
– 5-8g of crushed or broken flax or chia seeds.
8. THINK IT IS NOT NECESSARY TO TAKE VITAMIN B12
Vitamin B12 or cobalamin is essential for proper brain function and protein synthesis. To ensure an adequate intake, it is necessary to consume food of animal origin in adequate proportions or, if not, take adequate supplementation.
There is no bioavailable vitamin B12 in any food of plant origin. And it has been determined that even vegetarians eating a varied and balanced diet do not get enough vitamin B12. Therefore, whether you are a vegetarian or vegan, do not forget to make a good supplementation in this vitamin.
According to the Efsa (European Food Safety Authority), the intake of 4 µg / day of vitamin B12 seems to represent a minimum for maintaining a normal hematological state associated with low deposits of B12 in the body (1-2mg).
For this reason, vitamin B12 supplementation is essential since, although there is a regular consumption of eggs or dairy products, daily requirements are not met.
Recommended Vitamin B12 Supplementation:
A daily supplement of cyanocobalamin (bacterial origin) is recommended: 25-100 micrograms per day (chew to promote absorption) or a weekly supplement of 2000 micrograms per week divided into 1 or 2 doses.
The determination of B12 in the body and in blood does not represent the actual state of body deposits. To make a correct assessment, the parameters to be determined are: homocysteine and methylmalonic acid. Children and the elderly should be supplemented with vitamin B12 even if they consume eggs and dairy.
9. NOT KNOWING HOW TO CHOOSE VEGETABLE BEVERAGES
In consultation we find many vegetarians who decide not to drink milk and who choose to drink vegetable drinks several times a day. Not all vegetable drinks are of the same quality. The main thing that we have to take into account when choosing a vegetable drink is:
First of all, that it does not have added sugars. We should look at the list of ingredients. Syrups, syrups, fructose or, directly, sugar (even if it is whole grain) appear in this list.
The second is that it is enriched in calcium. Since vegetable drinks are mainly made up of water, the only way it can provide us with a good amount of calcium is to enrich it. At a minimum, you should carry 120mg of calcium per 100ml of drink. No vegetable drink on the market reaches that amount if it is not fortified.
10- TAKE DRINKS OTHER THAN WATER
It does not matter if they are juices, soft drinks, smoothies, sweetened vegetable drinks, “sports drinks”, coffee or alcohol.
Water should be our reference drink. Neither a green smoothie with promises of detox, nor a multivitamin juice, nor light or zero soft drinks, nor a glass of wine a day is good for the heart, nor beer is a good drink to recover from sports.
Water, water and more water in the form of infusions, teas,… everything counts !! Do not forget to drink approximately 1.5-2l of water daily.