A few weeks back, I wrote about the paleo diet and its emphasis on their diet being on whole foods. At the completion of that article, I promised my take on the vegetarian diet, so here goes!
Now, I will preface this by saying that I have been a strict vegetarian for 20 years, however, I like to think I can put my bias aside and give an objective review. After much consideration, I have decided to start adding in a little fish and chicken, stay tuna’d for my reaction 😉
Nowadays, there seems to be so many labels for the way one chooses to eat. Vegetarian, Vegan, Paleo, vegetarian who eats fish, raw food only and so on. At the end of the day, what I encourage patients to do it not to abide by a certain set of rules, but to eat what makes them feel good physically and ethically, and conversely, avoid what doesn’t agree with them. I know plenty of vegetarians that eat legumes until the cows come home, but they then say that legumes make them feel bloated and tired. Now my logic says that if something doesn’t sit well with you, don’t eat it.
The reasons for people becoming vegetarian are varied and I would be the richest woman in the world if I had a dollar for every time people asked me my motives behind my herbivorous ways! Taste, texture, animal rights, digestion, religion. For me, it was the whole mental game, not being able to eat anything that had once been alive. So, at the tender age of 12, I decided to become vegetarian. Over the next 4 years I avoided meat and eggs like the plague, and ate pasta, rice, bread and the odd vegetable until my heart’s content. Not surprisingly, I became really unwell, anaemic, glandular fever, tired, the works. What I failed to do, and what I see a lot of vegetarians do, especially early on in the piece, is to add in adequate protein sources and substitute the lost nutrients in the form of tofu, legumes, nuts and seeds and an abundance of fresh produce. Refined carbohydrates are awfully low in essential nutrients, although they provide energy in the form of glucose, they do not provide the necessary amount of B12, iron, magnesium, zinc and the myriad of other vitamins, minerals and anti oxidants required for the health of your immune and nervous systems, hormones balance, mental acuity and bones. Hence, there are a lot of tired, hungry, sick vegetarians in the world. The vegetarian that I see thrive are the ones who make a commitment to include lots of nuts and seeds, fermented foods to enhance digestion and encourage the good bacteria production, organic soy products (no fake soy sausages on the menu!), legumes if they agree with you and lots and lots of fruit and vegetables.
Getting back to my original point though, each and every body is so different, just because you choose to be vegetarian or vegan or paleo or whatever your choice, it needs to tick all of your body’s boxes. Are you getting adequate iron, B12, is your digestion optimum, are you moving your bowels regularly, are you tired, rested, sleeping, do you show signs of food intolerance, rashes, headaches etc?
I have recently been doing a lot of reading on the blood type diet and the ancestral link between food and your blood, I wouldn’t say that its the be al and end all, but certainly a consideration. Some bodies do better on meat that others, some thrive, some flounder.
Find your happy place, eat what sits well with you physically, mentally and spiritually. For those that know me and have catered for my vegetarianism at their house will be shocked to know that for the last few months, I have been eating chicken and fish. Why?? I can’t explain it, I just felt like it!You’re never to old to change, review or challenge your beliefs. If you are paleo, steak is not breakfast, if you are vego, 2 slices of toast is not breakfast.
For help navigating the best nutrition for your body, I’m the all ears.