Making the choice to minimize meat in your diet can be a challenge for most, but some find it quite easy. Whether it is vegetarianism, veganism or just making the decision to go meatless in some meals will create buzz amongst family and friends. Many ask questions like, “Aren’t you lacking vitamins?” and the most famous, “How do you get enough protein?”
Whether you are looking for solid answers to family and friends when asked these questions or exploring these questions on your own, we will introduce you to what have been called “Hero foods.” These are the foods that are the heroes of a vegetarian diet because they are rich sources of essential nutrients. When I think of the word hero, the first thing to mind is something or someone that is regarded as ideal or model. That is exactly what Hero foods are, the model, the ideal foods to consume in place of meat. Incorporating these foods into a meatless diet will help to avoid any issues with vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
Consult a doctor or a nutritionist to gain a better understanding of which combinations work best for your body, your level of physical activity and other dietary needs. Some meatless diets include a combination of certain foods to get enough protein, but still lack other essential minerals such as iron, zinc, calcium and vitamin B12. This is not to scare you or discourage you from going meatless, it is mainly to provide you with more information to help you on your path of vegetarianism, veganism or just Meatless Monday’s.
“Hero foods” and the vitamins and minerals they obtain:
- Lentils: contain protein, fiber and complex carbohydrate, iron, some B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, and zinc.
- Soya beans: protein, some B vitamins, polyunsaturated fat, iron and fiber.
- Rolled Oats: good source of protein, thiamin, niacin, iron, fiber and carbohydrates.
- Wheat bran: excellent source of soluble fiber, iron and carbohydrates. (or wheat germ: vitamin E, folic acid, magnesium, thiamin, phosphorus, and zinc.)
- Dried apricots: Beta-carotene, calcium, fiber and vitamin C.
- Almonds: monounsaturated oil, protein, calcium, iron, fiber and vitamin E.
- Spinach: fiber and most of the vitamins and minerals commonly found in meat products; including calcium, iron, zinc, and folic acid.
- Seeds (sesame and sunflower seeds): protein, rich in calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin E, magnesium, and phosphate.
- Tofu and Tempeh: protein, iron, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus.
- Quinoa: carbohydrates, protein, fiber, various forms of Vitamin B, magnesium, phosphorous, iron, copper and manganese.
Combinations of these “Hero Foods” in your diet can assist you tremendously with living a healthy, active life with limited or no meat (or meat products). Of course, discuss with your doctor or nutritionist because everyone is different. Freshness is an important factor with fruits and vegetables when it comes to obtaining and retaining the vitamins and minerals found in the respective ingredients. Hopefully this helps you in your quest to becoming a better you. Feel free to use some of our easy vegan and vegetarian recipes if you are looking for meal ideas.
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