There are many health benefits from becoming a vegetarian, including reduced risk of heart diseases, obesity and cancer. Meat and animal fats have been linked to increased risk of stroke, breast cancer, and arthritis amongst other diseases.
However, with a wealth of information available on vegetarianism, it can often seem quite confusing. We asked the NZ Vegetarian Society to share their top tips for what foods to load up on so you receive all the essential nutrients and vitamins, and what foods to be mindful of avoiding.
Foods to load up on…
- Try porridge (rolled oats). Not only is it a great winter-warming start to the day during the colder months, but the soluble fibre helps to lower bad cholesterol.
- Freshly ground flaxseeds and walnuts are a great source of Omega-3. Aim to have one teaspoon a day. Try adding it to your morning smoothie or sprinkle of muesli.
- Opt for wholegrain or wholemeal bread instead of white as it contains iron and other essential nutrients.
- Baked beans are a great source of iron and protein and make a tasty breakfast option.
- Hummus is a great dip for snack foods and contains protein, iron and calcium. It’s also easy to make. For a simple recipe, click here.
- Vitamin C helps with the absorption of plant based iron, so eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.
- Make homemade smoothies. If you want to be dairy-free (vegan) as well, use soya milk and blend with your choice of fruit.
Be mindful of...
- Rennet (which is used to make cheese), as this comes from calves stomachs. Look for vegetarian rennet or enzyme when reading the back of packaging.
- Gelatine, which is commonly in yoghurts and lollies
- Beef fat is often found in biscuits, pastries etc.
- When buying takeaways, check that fried foods are fried in vegetable oil
- Fish sauces and stocks are often labelled as vegetarian, but in fact, they can often contain non-vegetarian ingredients. So read the back of the package
- Look for advice from experts, such as like the NZ Vegetarian Society. They have a range of resources to help you, many of which can be downloaded for free from their website vegetarian.org.nz
Tips from the NZ Vegetarian Society
Images credit: John Paul Urizar/ bauersyndication.com.au, Andrew Young/ bauersyndication.com.au, Scott Hawkins/ bauersyndication.com.au.