This vegetarian lifestyle conversation is in partnership with Kaiser Permanente Orange County.
It makes me dizzy reading all the new diet fads that show up on my Facebook feed. Doesn’t it seem that there’s a new super food, juicing diet or tea detox coming out monthly? Whenever my girlfriends come over for our monthly chisme, the talk always leads into what crazy diet they are on now. If that be Keto, Paleo or fasting diet. I sit back and just listen to the craziness.
Growing up Latina I had never heard of vegetarianism, until one day while watching TV. I wanted to experience that so from one day to the next I gave up meat. Not long after that I found myself losing weight, I felt a kind of lightness I’d never felt before and that’s when I decided that I would never consume meat again. It’s been almost 15 years since I became a vegetarian. This is why I teamed up with Kaiser Permanente to discuss with Dietician Frances O’Neil, MSW, RDN, CDE and get you some tips on the vegetarian lifestyle.
Key points about vegetarianism:
- Vegetarian is appropriate for any life stage
- There are 4 types
- Lacto-ovo: Eat milk and eggs
- Lacto: Eat dairy, no eggs
- Ovo: Eat eggs, no dairy
- Vegan: No animal products
- A multi-vitamin/mineral supplement at least a couple times/week is highly recommended for the lacto and ovo vegetarians and for vegans.
Once you have decided which type of vegetarianism works for you, then looking at the deficiencies is important. If you are thinking of lacto-ovo, no deficiency to be worried about. The potential deficiencies are Vitamin B12, calcium, iron, EPA and DHA (omega 3 fats), iodine and vitamin D. Vitamin D & B12, calcium and iron can be checked using a standard blood test.Iodine cannot be checked using a standard blood test and there is no standard blood test for EPA and DHA
An iodine deficiency would be rare since it is a trace mineral meaning that the body needs it in very small amounts. Additionally, most table salts contain iodine. Therefore, if you are using iodized salt on your food, you will be getting adequate iodine. Iodine is also found in sea vegetables like seaweed and kelp.
The nutrients of greater concern are calcium, Vitamins B12 and D, iron, calcium and the omega 3 fats. Many of the milk alternative products like almond, cashew, and coconut milk are fortified with calcium, Vitamin D and sometimes Vitamin B12.Check the packaging. Speaking with Frances O’Neil, she recommends getting your Vitamin D levels, iron and if you are vegan, your vitamin-B 12 levels checked annually.
It is often not enough to just take an iron supplement to prevent anemia. Vitamin B12 is needed to make red blood cells. If you don’t have enough, you’ll end up with anemia. Again, some of the milk alternative are fortified with it as well as nutritional yeast, and some cereals. You can also get Vitamin B12 shots from your doctor, but it will be more expensive than a supplement. If it were me, I would try the supplement first and be consistent. If after a month of supplements you don’t notice a difference, talk with your doctor.
There are advantages to maintaining a vegan lifestyle. The higher up one eats on the food chain, the higher the concentration of chemicals and plastics, This is known as bio-accumulation or bio-magnification. Chemicals and plastics get into our water and food, animals consume the food and water that contain the plastics and chemicals and store them in their fat cells, and lastly humans consume the animal fat which has concentrated the chemicals and plastics. Thiscan contribute to disease particularly auto-immune diseases like chronic fatigue syndrome or rheumatoid arthritis. In a vegetarian lifestyle, you would get some chemicals and plastics, but in less concentrations. Stricter vegetarians, like vegans, get less chemical and plastics and no cholesterol.
In a perfect world, being an organic vegan would cover all your basis. An organic vegan is expensive and more difficult to dine out. Even at home putting together a meal is more challenging. What you can do is go to: www.ewg.org and look up the dirty dozen and the clean 15, which is a list of the foods with the highest and lowest concentration of pesticides. Another rule is that anything that has a peel you’ll get less toxins. The extra effort has a great payoff, it will greatly benefit your health.
I have had plenty of people tell me “I could never be a vegetarian.” Especially if you’re thinking of your tacos, mole, albondigas, the list is endless. But nowadays, there are so many options and meat alternatives, making it an easier to make it part of your lifestyle. At home the hubster and chiclets are meat eaters and we have found ways to make it work. I usually make them chicken or meat and a couple of side dishes that are vegetarian. Something for them and tons of side dishes for me. Eating out is super easy since everyone gets what they want. I take a greens powder as a supplement, I like the taste of it and why not. I think with any lifestyle change, especially dietary, you have to think,” What can I eat?” Focus on the positive aspect and the world will open up. I can still have chiles rellenos, tacos de papa, and huevo con soy chorizo. YUM!!