Just because you’re vegetarian doesn’t make you instantly healthier. Many people become vegetarian due to many reasons. Some become vegetarian for religious reasons, ethical reasons, or even health reasons.
Did you know? Singapore is ranked as the 2nd most vegan-friendly city in Asia by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta). The benefits of incorporating a vegetarian meal into your diet is that it tends to have a lower intake of saturated fat and cholesterol, and may even lower the risk of heart disease.
If you’re planning to become vegetarian or you are vegetarian, here are some tips to ensure you’re eating right.
1.Consume high quality plant-based protein
You should be consuming 2-3 servings of protein a day. For plant-based protein, tofu, tempeh, and edamame are good sources of protein. Tofu contains 10g of protein/ half cup, tempeh contains 15g/ half cup, and edamame contains 8.5g/ half cup. Besides being high in protein, tofu, tempeh, and edamame also contain relatively high levels of calcium and iron, which are substitute for meat and dairy products.
2. Have a balanced diet
Don’t just eat the same food all the time! Try something new and choose veggies and fruits with different colours!
3. Watch out for nutritional shortfalls!
Vegans typically have a higher prevalence of vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to fatigue, weakness, dizziness, and abnormal neurologic symptoms. Thus, choose foods that are fortified with vitamin B12 (e.g. some soy milk, breakfast cereal). You may also wish to take vitamin B12 supplements if necessary. For ovo-vegetarians, taking eggs will help increase your vitamin B12 levels.
Another vitamin vegans may be easily deficient in is vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency can cause bone pain and muscle weakness as vitamin D helps with the formation of strong bones. Being deficient in vitamin D also increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases and cognitive impairment in older adults. Hence, lacto-ovo-vegetarians can take milk and eggs to help with their deficiency. Another way is to stay in the sun without the use of sunscreen — but don’t stay too long!
An essential mineral that vegans may be deficient in is omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are good for the cardiovascular health as well as brain function. Hence, vegans and vegetarians should consume plant-based foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids (e.g. flaxseed, walnuts, canola oil, soy products). Alternatively, there are products which are fortified with omega-3 fatty acids such as some soy milk and cereal bars.