three actions — if we decided to do them — would go a long
way to make us a healthier nation? At a recent health summit,
Dr. Ali Kahn, Dean of the College of Public Health at the
University of Nebraska Medical Center, said it pretty much
boils down to this basic prescription:
smoking (or don’t start).
150 minutes of physical activity each week.
servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
then took a show of hands to see how many of us actually eat 7
servings (about 4 to 5 cups) of fruits and vegetables each
folks do, including many who follow a vegetarian eating style.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), an
estimated 3.3 percent of Americans are vegetarians; they
primarily eat a plant-based diet. Some vegetarians include
eggs and dairy foods on their menus, some do not. And almost
half of vegetarians report being vegan; they avoid all animal
foods including eggs, dairy and sometimes even honey (it’s
an animal food).
the nutritional and health impact of eating a vegetarian diet?
Here are some facts from the latest position paper on this
topic from the AND:
(including vegan) diets are healthful and nutritionally
adequate if they are appropriately planned. A soda and french
fries is not an appropriately planned vegetarian diet, for
example. Rather, a plan that includes vegetables, fruits,
whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds is more on target, say
vegetarian diets contain enough protein to meet one’s needs,
especially when legumes such as beans and soy products are
eaten regularly. One exception: Fruitarian diets — those
based mostly on fruit — are typically low in protein and
other essential nutrients.
to meat eaters, vegetarians tend to have lower stores of iron
— a nutrient essential for carrying oxygen to every nook and
cranny of our bodies. This may not always be a disadvantage,
however. Too much stored iron can be a risk factor for
metabolic syndrome, a condition that can lead to diabetes and
other chronic diseases. Iron from plant sources is not
absorbed as efficiently as the iron in animal foods. Yet
recent studies have found that the body can adapt over time to
become more efficient at absorbing iron from non-animal foods.
many plant-based foods such as spinach and Swiss chard contain
calcium, only about 5 percent of this essential mineral is
absorbed into the body due to the high oxalate content of
these foods. Vegetarians who avoid dairy foods therefore need
to be vigilant to consume calcium sources from low oxalate
vegetables such as kale, turnip greens, Chinese cabbage and
bok choy. Other plant sources of calcium for vegetarians
include tofu made with calcium salts, figs, almonds white
beans, oranges and tahini (a condiment made from sesame
more expert information on vegetarian diets? Check out the
consumer website provided by the Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic
Practice Group at www.vndpg.org.