The Veggie Venture: Embarking on a Flavorful Journey into Vegetarian …

People increasingly, at least in the western world, are changing their eating habits to be less meat based and turning to other substitutes including nuts, grains, seeds, legumes, and vegetables. Some people replace a few meals a week with a vegetarian option; others are mainly vegetarian but still eat some meat. One step on are those who are fully vegetarian. A vegetarian diet, if followed in a balanced manner, can provide many health benefits.

Different types of vegetarian diets

Lacto-ovo vegetarians- will eat dairy and eggs, but exclude animal flesh Lacto-vegetarians- will eat dairy, but exclude eggs and animal flesh Ovo-vegetarians- will eat eggs, but exclude dairy and animal flesh

Health benefits

Research is increasingly showing that some chronic health conditions can be helped by following a vegetarian diet. These include heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, constipation, diverticulitis, gout, and some types of cancer.

By decreasing the consumption of meat in the diet and increasing plant-based foods, means that the vegetarian diet is normally naturally lower in saturated fat and higher in dietary fiber and antioxidants. People following vegetarian diets also tend to consume fewer calories.

Potential nutritional deficiencies

Although there can be health benefits in following a vegetarian diet there is also a risk that some nutrient deficiencies can occur with the elimination of meat.

The nutrients to consider and some vegetarian sources are as follows:

Protein - this is important for growth and repair of all body cells and for muscle and nerve function. Vegetarian sources include legumes (chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, hummus, falafel), soy products (tofu), eggs, nuts, seeds, dairy foods (cheese, milk, yogurt) and wholegrains (quinoa, brown rice). Protein supplements are also an option. Try to consume a variety of different proteins over the period of the day, rather than all at one meal.

Iron - this is important for transporting oxygen around the body and is not absorbed as well from non-animal flesh foods. Vegetarian sources include tofu and tempeh, dried fruit, fortified foods (cereals), legumes, leafy greens (spinach), eggs and seeds.

Calcium - this is important for overall homeostasis, bone health, muscle and nerve function. Vegetarian sources include dairy products, calcium fortified dairy alternatives (soy milk, nut milk), almonds, brazil nuts, tahini and sesame seeds, figs, dried apricots, soya beans, broccoli, kale, and Asian greens like bok choy.

Omega-3 - this helps lower cholesterol and protect against some chronic diseases. Vegetarian sources include flaxseed oil, walnuts, seaweed, linseeds, and chia seeds.

Zinc - this is required for a healthy immune system, wound healing, healthy skin, and growth/development. Vegetarian sources include whole grains, eggs, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

Vitamin D - this is important for calcium absorption and immune system functioning. Vegetarian food sources include eggs and milk but the best source is from safe sun exposure.

Vitamin B12 - this is needed for brain function and formation of red blood cells. Vegetarian sources include eggs, dairy products and B12 fortified foods (Marmite).

Iodine - this is required for growth and development and for thyroid function. Vegetarian sources include iodized salt, dairy products, and nori/seaweed.

Where to Find Suitable Vegetarian Foods

There are an increasing number of vegetarian foods now on offer. To find a wide variety of options, visit


1. Dietitians Association of Australia. A guide to vegetarian eating. 2014 – [cited on the 10 August 2017]. PEN Nutrition Database.

2. Dietitians Association of Australia. Health benefits of a vegetarian diet. 2011 – [cited on the 10 August 2017]. PEN Nutrition Database.

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