If you are making the switchto a vegetarian diet for its healthbeneﬁts, you’ll be pleased to ﬁndthat there is a wonderful addition-al beneﬁt to vegetarian eating: it’sa delicious and fun way to explorenew foods. A vegetarian meal canbe as familiar as spaghetti withmarinara sauce, as comforting asa bowl of rich, potato soup, oras exotic as Grilled Polenta withPortabella Mushrooms(
).The switch to a vegetarian dietis easier than you might think.Most people, whether vegetar-ians or meat-eaters, typically usea limited variety of recipes; theaverage family eats only eight ornine different dinners repeatedly.You can use a simple, three-stepmethod to come up with ninevegetarian dinner menus that youenjoy and can prepare easily.
plant-based. When people from thosecountries adopt a Western, meat-baseddiet, their rates of breast cancer soar. Veg-etarians also have signiﬁcantly lower ratesof colon cancer than meat-eaters. Coloncancer is more closely associated withmeat consumption than any other dietary factor.Why do vegetarian diets help protectagainst cancer? First, they are lower infat and higher in ﬁber than meat-baseddiets. But other factors are important,too. Plants contain other cancer-ﬁghtingsubstances called phytochemicals. For ex-ample, vegetarians usually consume moreof the plant pigments beta-carotene andlycopene. is might help to explain why they have less lung and prostate cancer.Also, some studies have suggested that di-ets that avoid dairy products may reducethe risk of prostate and ovarian cancer.Some of the anti-cancer aspects of a vegetarian diet cannot yet be explained.For example, researchers are not quitesure why vegetarians have more of certainwhite blood cells, called “natural killercells,” which are able to seek out and de-stroy cancer cells.
the calcium connection
Vegetarians are less likely to form eitherkidney stones or gallstones. In addition, vegetarians may also be at lower risk forosteoporosis because they eat little or noanimal protein. A high intake of animalprotein encourages the loss of calciumfrom the bones. Replacing animal prod-ucts with plant foods reduces the amountof calcium lost. is may help to explainwhy people who live in countries wherethe diet is typically plant-based have littleosteoporosis, even when calcium intakeis lower than that in dairy-consumingcountries.
planning vegetarian diets
It’s easy to plan vegetarian diets thatmeet all your nutrient needs. Grains,beans, and vegetables are rich in proteinand iron. Green leafy vegetables, beans,lentils, tofu, and nuts are excellent sourcesof calcium, as are enriched soymilk andfortiﬁed juices.Vitamin D is normally made in thebody when sun shines on the skin. Peoplewho are dark-skinned or live at northernlatitudes have some diﬃculty producing vitamin D year-round. Vitamin D caneasily be obtained from fortiﬁed foods.Some sources are commercial breakfastcereals, soymilk, other supplementalproducts, and multivitamins.Regular intake of vitamin B
is impor-tant. Good sources include all commonmultiple vitamins (including vegetarian vitamins), fortiﬁed cereals, some brandsof nutritional yeast, and fortiﬁed soymilk.It is especially important for pregnantwomen and breast-feeding mothers to getenough vitamin B
. When reading foodlabels, look for the word cyanocobalaminin the ingredient list. is is the form of vitamin B
that is best absorbed.
think of three vegetarian meals that you al-ready enjoy. Common ones are tofu and vegetablestir-fry, vegetable stew, or pasta primavera.
think of three reci-pes that you prepare regularlythat can easily be adapted toa vegetarian menu. For exam-ple, a favorite chili recipe canbe made with all of the sameingredients; just replace themeat with beans or textur-ized vegetable protein. Enjoybean burritos (using cannedvegetarian refried beans) in-stead of beef burritos, veggieburgers instead of hamburg-ers, and grilled eggplant androasted red peppers instead of grilled chicken in sandwiches.Many soups, stews, and cas-seroles also can be made intovegetarian dishes with a fewsimple changes.
check out some veg-etarian cookbooks from thelibrary and experiment withthe recipes for a week orso until you ﬁnd three newrecipes that are delicious andeasy to make. Just like that,with minimal changes to yourmenus, you will have ninevegetarian dinners.