Seriously considering a switch

galmal

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Hi,

I'm really new to this, and know so little about it that I don't even know what to ask!!

I guess my biggest concern is getting enough protein. I know a few foods, like beans, eggs and dairy are good sources, but don't have nearly as much as animal protein. So, I guess my first question would be - how do I incorporate protein into my diet. I'm over 50 and I've read that my protein intake should probably go up, to about 80 grams a day?!!

Thanks for listening to a newbie.
 

lion

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Firstly, you should know the difference between a vegetarian and a vegan. Vegetarians eat eggs and dairy, while vegans don't. You should decide which you wish to transition to, as your diet will differ depending on that. A lot of people use vegetarianism as a stepping stone to veganism, and if you wish to do that it is fine.

A lot of people seem to think protein is a huge necessity. Yes, it is an essential nutrient, but we don't need huge quantities of it. The recommended amount of protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.

It shouldn't be hard at all to reach that. Lots of things have protein in them, like spinach, kale, soy milk, peanut butter, quinoa, tofu, lentils, beans (like you said) and of course nuts. Lots of other things have it too, just check on the back of the packet! You can always take supplements even, if you feel it's necessary. So you don't need eggs and dairy, if you wish to cut them out.
 

galmal

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Thanks for the explanation. I think that for now I would just like to consider being a vegetarian, as a vegan sounds a little extreme to me. What about fish? Not that I eat that much of it, but it seems like the data is conflicting - some saying that it's essential and good for you, other saying that it has heavy metals like mercury.

I would probably start with cutting out beef, chicken and pork. That sounds like the easiest, as it's pretty obvious what products contain them.
 

Rizwani

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Making the transition to vegetarianism means you will have to grapple with big decisions such as which alternatives to consume in order to meet your dietary requirements and maintain your nutritional health. The human body, though resilient, needs a baseline amount of various nutrients to remain healthy and to prevent diet related diseases, nutrients that it cannot synthesis on its own. This is before you even take into account any external factors which affect metabolism and caloric intake such as behavioral habits i.e. regular exercise, work capacity, cognitive function, or other factors such as the climate you live in. There are about 23 basal nutrients [1] of which the most popular forms of seafood has at least five. So it follows, the biggest question is not whether fish in and of itself is a necessary food in your diet but whether the essential nutrients found in fish and other sea food can be found in equal or greater quantities in vegetarian sources.

What's in a fish?
The biggest craze with eating fish is the beneficial long chain fatty acids found in them. The misconception is that fish is the only food in which these fats are found in abundance. The fact is, nuts, soya and soya derivatives, rapeseed, cultivated marine algae, and linseed are sustainable alternative sources of EPA/DHA Omega 3 found in fish [2]. Fish actually contain these beneficial fatty acids due in part to their diet which consist of food sources such as algae. There is credible correlation between reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases and increased intake of Omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (Harris et al., 2009). The ratio of EPA and DHA is different in fish and supplements, and human studies have shown that those people who either ate fish with relatively more DHA relative to EPA, or those who consumed supplements with relatively more EPA than DHA, had similar reductions in cardiac death by 33% and all-cause mortality by 29% (Kris-Etherton et al., 2009). Many Nations including the UK have dietary nutritional guidelines that recommend between between 100 to 250 mg of EPA and DHA.

Now about mercury in fish, that is hard to single out as a reason. In some fish that live longer, it may be a problem when the fish are caught for human consumption since such metals bio accumulate.

References

  1. WHO | Dietary recommendations / Nutritional requirements Who.int,. (2015). WHO | Dietary recommendations / Nutritional requirements. Retrieved 11 May 2015, from http://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/nutrecomm/en
  2. Lenihan-Geels, G., Bishop, K. and Ferguson, L.
    Alternative Sources of Omega-3 Fats: Can We Find a Sustainable Substitute for Fish?
    Lenihan-Geels, G., Bishop, K., & Ferguson, L. (2013). Alternative Sources of Omega-3 Fats: Can We Find a Sustainable Substitute for Fish?.Nutrients, 5(4), 1301-1315. doi:10.3390/nu5041301
 

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Alexia

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Thanks for the explanation. I think that for now I would just like to consider being a vegetarian, as a vegan sounds a little extreme to me. What about fish? Not that I eat that much of it, but it seems like the data is conflicting - some saying that it's essential and good for you, other saying that it has heavy metals like mercury.

I would probably start with cutting out beef, chicken and pork. That sounds like the easiest, as it's pretty obvious what products contain them.

I think a gradual switch sounds better for you. While you can get protein from pulses, dairy and eggs, you have to be more aware of balancing them. Too many people rely on dairy when they switch and can end up eating too much cheese and consuming too much milk. That's why it's good to combine foods.

Fish is often the last animal protein people give up when they become vegetarian (it was for me) and once you go down to fish only, it becomes easier as you use soya protein or tofu. They are good sources mixed with beans and maybe some cheese and that would be more than enough protein depending on your activity level. If you run marathons or work out you may need to look at your diet as you will burn up calories much quicker.
 

nytegeek

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I have considered a vegetarian diet at times. Protein actually is an issue for those of us that need it balance the effect of carbohydrates. Protein consumption with carbohydrates helps blood sugar levels in my own experience.
 

Connie

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Protein should not be an issue for anyone, diabetic or not, if they have done the necessary research beforehand. And there in lies the problem, too many people changing diets do not do the necessary research to find out what they need to eat in what proportions before they change their diet. Anyone with a medical condition that is affected by their diet should already have done this research.

There is plenty of protein available away from dairy sources for people considering a vegetarian diet (or even a vegan diet). Dairy contains a very high fat content as well as a high protein contents and many vegetarians or new vegetarians fall into the trap of using our thinking of dairy as their sole protein source.

To the OP, @galmal I would actually suspect your biggest issue initially will be maintaining enough iron in your diet and this is where you need to sit down and look at what you eat. As we all get older, we need less calories, yet we still need to consume the same weight of protein, iron, other minerals etc, so need to be more careful about how we obtain them from our diet and examining your diet in detail before you make the changes is the best way forward. Otherwise you are simply experimenting on a live subject and experiments can and do go wrong!
 

Michelle

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Whenever I tell people I'm vegetarian, protein is their biggest concern. I've never been a body builder or anything so I don't need massive amounts, nor does any average person. You can get sufficient protein by eating foods like eggs, beans and other legumes, quinoa, peanut or other nut butters, etc. If you eat a varied diet I would guess that it would be actually kind of hard NOT to get your protein. Have some eggs in the morning with a slice of toast with peanut butter. Make some beans with dinner or sprinkle quinoa on your salad.

As another poster said, your biggest issue will likely be iron. I myself have struggled with iron deficiency throughout my life that got even worse when I became vegetarian. I was anemic before becoming vegetarian, so it was definitely something I had to be extra careful about. Thankfully, again, eating a balanced diet will probably put you at your iron limit or above. With your eggs in the morning, have a glass of juice made from iron rich fruit (coconut, berry, prune). In your salad at lunch, have leafy greens. Beans have iron, so a serving at dinner will also help.

There are tons of resources available on the internet for new vegetarians and established vegetarians who want to learn more about getting nutrition. As a last resort, supplements are available if you are absolutely not getting your required nutrition, but obviously food sources should be your first option :)
 

nytegeek

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I struggle with it as well. I don't care for the side effects that come with an iron supplement either. Not pleasant.
 

Mickella18

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Yup, I'm there as well. Learning these things really can be a lot to take on. It makes you wonder what you were doing your whole life before now, doesn't it?