Want to experiment with vegetarianism? Here’s how:

By Matt Law [Health Bureau Chief]

So you want to try becoming a vegetarian. Great.

University students are among one of the largest groups to dabble in cutting meat out of their diets.

There are all sorts of reasons; animal cruelty, hormones and chemicals in food, and specific diet trends, just to name a few.

And there are all sorts of benefits; reduced fat intake, lower blood pressure, reduced risk of kidney disease and a reduced risk of some types of cancer.

No matter what your reason, it is still important to get enough protein, iron , vitamins and minerals in your diet that you may be cutting out of your past omnivorous eating habits.

Your best bet when starting out with new diet of any kind is to consult a qualified nutritionist.

If you eat properly and eat a wide variety of foods, then getting these nutrients should be no problem at all.

Eating complete proteins which contain all the essential amino acids can be difficult for vegetarians. Beef, chicken, fish, egg whites and milk offer complete proteins.

For vegetarians, soybeans offer the only complete protein so adding a little tofu to the diet is a good idea. Another option is eating what are called complimentary proteins. These are two foods that offer incomplete proteins but together make complete proteins. Some simple options are peanut butter and bread or red beans and rice.

Iron is another important factor that may be lacking in a vegetarian diet. Iron is important for oxygen transportation and hormone production in the body. Some food options are whole-grains, spinach, nuts and prune juice. And everybody loves prune juice.
Another consideration is calcium intake (if you have cut out dairy products as well). Fortunately, there are plenty of soy and other products on the market that are fortified with calcium, just make sure you are consuming them.

Vitamin B12, which helps with DNA synthesis and growth of nerve fibres, can also be a concern for vegetarians. Again, a lot of products are fortified with B12, but you may need to take a vitamin supplement to ensure you are getting enough.

Vegetarian diets are a great thing to try and if you are strong enough to cut out meat all together, more power to you. You can also try making some days of the week meatless if you still get a craving for a hamburger. You will be surprised at how great you feel cutting down on meat products.

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