Vegetarianism is not new. For thousands of years many cultures have lived well on vegetarian/vegan diets. The worldwide trend today is toward vegetarian living, and the advantages of a vegetarian/vegan diet are now widely recognised and known to contribute to improved health.
The New Zealand Nutrition Foundation recommends that the largest proportion of our diet should consist of fruits, vegetables and grains. A moderate amount of protein foods should be eaten, and oils and sugars form only a small part of our diet. A well balanced vegetarian/vegan diet closely follows these guidelines, easily supplying all the nutrients we require.
Choose a variety of foods, mostly whole foods which have more nutritional value than highly processed options. Variety is the key to any well balanced diet, supplying all the nutrients necessary for good health.
Membership to the NZ Vegetarian Society gives you access to free comprehensive nutrition information, both in your introduction pack and for ongoing tips and advice.
For good health, the human body needs:
Carbohydrates — Protein — Fats — Vitamins — Minerals — Fibre — Water
Remember to drink 6-8 glasses of water per day and take regular exercise. Most vitamins and minerals are easily provided by a plant-based diet. The combination of foods can affect absorption of some nutrients, some of which can be more difficult to absorb in a vegetarian/vegan diet, so try to follow the guidelines below:
Eat a variety of foods from the four major food groups every day:
The Food Plate has taken the place of the previously used food pyramid. It shows the ideal proportions of a well-balanced meal.
Evidence has been mounting that soy foods may have a role in preventing heart disease and cancer, and significantly reduce blood cholesterol levels. Over 25 clinical studies have demonstrated that by replacing animal protein with soy protein, or even adding soy protein to your diet, you can significantly lower the level of cholesterol in your blood.
Soy beans are very high in protein, are rich in lecithin, vitamins B and E, iron, trace elements and minerals, are also one of the few plant foods that contain all 22 of the amino acids (ie are a “whole protein”), and they are now recognised world wide as an important protein substitute. Soy beans are also remarkably versatile being made into soy milk, textured vegetable protein (TVP), tofu, soy flour and tempeh. Tofu is bland and easily takes on the flavour of a dish. Some soy milks and tofu products are also fortified with B12 and calcium (check the labels).