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Vegetarian Nutrition

A balanced non-animal diet is the healthiest there is - for children as well as adults.

Some people going vegetarian worry about getting enough protein, calcium, B vitamins and other nutrients. In fact, a veggie diet provides all your nutritional needs.

Protein needs are automatically met by a balanced, varied diet. Rich sources include tofu and rice, beans, pulses and whole grains, soya products and cereals, bean sprouts and nuts.

Too much protein, particularly animal protein, is thought to cause the body to excrete high levels of calcium and can cause kidney problems.

Calcium is found in some soya milk, nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables, tofu and dried fruit. Yeast extract, nuts, wholemeal bread, rice, mushrooms, bananas, sunflower and sesame seeds are rich in B vitamins.

Vitamin B12 does not naturally occur in plant foods, but many vegan foods are fortified with it, in particular, breakfast cereals, yeast extract and some soya milks. Zinc can be found in lentils, sesame and pumpkin seeds, brown rice and other whole grains and green vegetables.

Most people obtain all the vitamin D they need from sunlight on their skin. Certain foods are fortified with it as well, such as vegetable margarine. Vegetable oils, wheat germ, avocados, hazelnuts and almonds all contain vitamin E.

To ensure you get enough iron, eat baked beans, dried fruit, whole grains, molasses, pulses, cocoa, dark green leafy vegetables and nuts.

Iodine is found in green leafy vegetables and seaweeds.

The dairy industry claims that its products are a vital part of a healthy diet. This is totally untrue. Nor are there any nutrients in milk products that cannot be obtained from plant foods - calcium included.  There are now dairy-free versions of milk, yogurt, cheese, margarine, ice cream etc.

Like the flesh of other animals, fish meat is an unhealthy choice, reports Dr Neal Barnard of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine ( Fish are almost one-third fat and salmon meat is more than 50% fat. Ounce for ounce, shrimp has double the cholesterol of beef.

Whilst fish and fish oil capsules do contain healthy fatty acids, such as omega 3, they also contain an equal amount of artery-clogging saturated fats. A better source of omega 3 is linseed oil. The flesh of fish also comes loaded with toxic chemical residues, which concentrate in their muscles. The risk of food poisoning from eating fish is far greater than that from eating beef, poultry or pork.  This is because fish and the bacteria living on them flourish in the kind of temperatures found in refrigerators.

There is now a huge and growing body of evidence to show that a balanced, flesh, egg and dairy-free diet is extremely healthy. According to a detailed report by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research, "Vegetarian groups have been shown to have lower overall mortality, lower risk of cardiovascular disease, lower rates of obesity, and longer life expectancy than general population comparison groups."

The same report notes that a well-balanced vegetarian diet "may decrease the risk of oral, stomach, pancreatic, breast, ovarian and bladder cancers."

Most of Plant Wisdom's products are vegetarian, including what we use to encapsulate our supplements.

Courtesy Animal Aid.

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