This doesn’t mean no meat but less meat. But you wonder does that mean you will be sacrificing essential nutrients? Find out more about the myths of plant foods.
Nowadays lots of people are saying to themselves, “Maybe I should eat less meat”. However, there exist a number of myths surrounding going meat less:
1) If I don’t eat meat, where do I get my protein?
ANSWER: The idea that we need meat for protein is perhaps the biggest myth surrounding meat less diets. People have won gold medals in Olympic events such as Carl Lewis, they’ve won bodybuilding and weightlifting medals and they’ve won marathons without eating any meat. We can easily get all the protein we need without meat. In fact, too much protein is a bigger worry than too little. We can get protein from whole grains such as brown rice, legumes such as soybeans and peanuts, nuts such as almonds and cashews, and seeds such as sunflower and pumpkin. Even fruits and vegetables contain protein.
2) I need meat to get enough iron.
ANSWER: Iron is an essential nutrient that enables our blood to perform its transport functions. Iron also maintains our immune system. Fortunately, many plant-based foods are rich in iron including chickpeas, raisins, spinach, molasses, brown sugar, whole grain bread and oatmeal.
3) Milk and dairy products help to build strong bones and teeth.
ANSWER: This may surprise you but studies have shown that osteoporosis (brittle bones) is linked to the high consumption of milk and other dairy products. Calcium is essential to the development and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth, and many plant foods are a rich source. In addition to nutrition, exercise and a diet moderate in protein will help to protect our bones.
A few of the plant sources of calcium: Vegetables such as broccoli, carrots and sweet potatoes, legumes such as lentils and soymilk, whole grains such as brown rice, and fruits such as dates and oranges. Also, nowadays, many foods such as drinks and breakfast cereals are fortified with calcium, iron, vitamin D and other nutrients. Look particularly for fortified foods with little or no sugar or other sweeteners.
4) I need to eat fish for Omega 3 and 6.
ANSWER: Omega 3 and 6 are fatty acids essential to normal functioning of all body tissues including cellular functions, as well as changes in mood and behaviour.
Some people believe that we need to eat fish to have enough Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. However, with increased pollution of the seas and other waterways, eating fish is increasingly risky. Furthermore, overfishing is destroying marine ecosystems. Fortunately, many other foods contain Omega 3 and 6. Just a few of the many sources of Omega 3 are: Flaxseed (also known as linseed), walnuts, olive oil, pumpkin seeds and soy. Some sources of Omega 6 include: Flaxseed, sunflower seeds, sunflower seed oil, corn oil and safflower oil. A tip is to best use raw flaxseeds and either grind or blend them to improve digestion. Otherwise, there is flaxseed oil or capsules.
5) I need meat to get enough vitamin B12.
ANSWER: Vitamin B12 is important for the effective functioning of our nervous system. Current research tells us the B12 found in plant foods is not well-absorbed by our bodies. No worries, fortified foods or supplements address this.
If you are really worried about missing out on any nutrient while you are meat less, you can take a vegetarian multi-vitamin or a supplement specifically for that one nutrient, such as B12.
6) The pesticides sprayed on fruits and vegetables make them worse than eating meat.
ANSWER: Pesticide residues in meat are generally much higher than in plant foods. Please remember that the animals we eat also eat plant foods. Do you think the pesticide levels on those crops are controlled in the same way our Government inspects the foods we eat? Also, pesticides concentrate in the bodies of the animals we eat.
Still worried? We can wash, soak and rinse our fruit and vegetables. Another option is to buy organic. The more people buying organic will help reduce the price.
7) If I go vegetarian, there’s nothing to eat except salads.
ANSWER: Salads are just one of the infinite varieties of vegetarian options. Believe it or not, there is a vegetarian alternative for almost any dish you can name – burgers, lasagna, chicken rice, laksa – the list is endless! The ‘meat’ in these dishes is substituted with other ingredients like mushrooms or is made from soy, flavoured to taste just as good as real meat. The only difference is that it does not involve animal cruelty, does not add to global warming and does not make you a second-hand consumer of harmful antibiotics and growth hormones.
Even so, salads should not be snubbed. To turn boring into exciting, experiment with different kinds of greens – add soba noodles or your favourite pasta, chickpeas and avocados, beans and nuts! There are many people heading down the vegetarian route including the oldest living person in Singapore, Teresa Hsu.
(Some of the copy above has been reprinted with permission from the Vegetarian Society Singapore’s (VSS) brochure called “Meat less in Singapore”. Go to VSS’s website for recipes.)
(PHOTO CREDIT: Vegetables in a basket, aidswarrio, stock.xchng)