If you have thought about reducing your consumption of meat or even possibly adapting to a vegetarian lifestyle, apparently you are not alone. According to a 2015 study commissioned by the BC Humane Society, eight per cent of Canadians polled identified as vegetarian and a further 23 per cent were trying to eat less meat.
And while some vegetarians site ethical reasons or the expense of meat as their motivation, many others just want to reap the benefits of a vegetarian diet, including lower rates of obesity, heart disease, cholesterol, blood pressure and certain cancers.
But in order for vegetarianism to offer health benefits, the diet needs to be nutritionally complete and – most importantly – include adequate protein levels.
Optimum protein is very important as it is composed of amino acids that are the building blocks of muscle, skin and tissue. Amino acids also participate in multitudes of actions within the body, including the transport of neurotransmitters and hormone production.
A simple guideline for protein intake is 0.8 grams of protein per kilo of body weight daily for sedentary people and 1.2-1.7 grams per kilo for people that are older or more active in their lifestyle. However, these are just ranges and can vary greatly depending on health conditions that affect protein metabolism, extreme sports including body building or in the case of seniors or children.
Excellent high protein meatless options for vegetarians (including lacto-ovo vegetarians) include: firm tofu/tempeh (15 grams per 1/2 cup), lentils (18 grams per cup cooked), quinoa (8 grams per cup cooked, buckwheat (6 grams per cup cooked), eggs (6 grams per egg), Greek yogurt (8 grams per 1/2 cup), cottage cheese (30 grams per one cup), beans (8 grams per cup) or edamame (16 grams per 3/4 cup)
It is also important when opting for a vegetarian diet to include an assortment of different meatless protein sources and a wide variety of vegetables and grains to assure that you get all of the minerals and vitamins needed for a healthy diet.
Some vitamins such as B12 are found primarily in meat products and can therefore be lacking in meatless menu. B12 has many important functions in the body including red cell production and nerve cell development. Good vegetarian sources include nutritional yeast, yogurt, fortified nut milks, soy burgers or eggs.
Strict vegetarians must also be sure to consume ample quantities of iron in their foods as it plays an integral part in the transport of oxygen throughout the body and contributes to optimum energy levels.
Iron is best consumed in a food source and paired with a vitamin C rich food to help increase overall absorption. Excellent plant sources include legumes, lentils, Swiss chard, spinach, fermented soy or pumpkin seeds.
Whether you are thinking about venturing into the vegan world, or just want to reduce your meat intake this summer, a delicious and nutritious veggie burger may be just the place to get you motivated. Enjoy!
Yummy Veggie Burger
1 tablespoon ground flax
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup grated carrots or sweet potato
1/3 cup finely chopped parsley or cilantro
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup finely chopped red or white onion
1/2 cup sunflower seeds, toasted
3/4 cup oats, blended into a flour
1/2 cup spelt bread crumbs
1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1-2 tbsp tamari (or to taste)
1 tsp each; chili powder, dried oregano, ground cumin, sea salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, mash the black bean into a paste leaving a few beans aside for texture. Stir in the rest of the ingredients and mix well. With damp hands, shape the dough into 8 patties and pack well to keep the dough together. Place on the baking sheet. Bake the patties for 15 minutes, gently flip them, and bake for 15-20 minutes more until the patties are golden. Alternatively if you want to grill the patties, cook at 350 degrees for 15 minutes and then place them on a greased grill over medium, tossing once until lightly golden.
If you like this vegan recipe by Angela Liddon, you can find many more in her fabulous cookbook-Oh She Glows.