Ever since I became a vegetarian, people have told me that I’m unhealthy. Usually while they’re munching on some incredibly unhealthy meat-based snack, I might add. The common misperception is that if you don’t eat meat or dairy products, you lack protein, iron and calcium. They literally look at you like they expect you to drop dead in front of them. People are quite often surprised when I say I’m a vegetarian, as I don’t look permanently ill. Believe it or not, I have survived without meat now for almost twenty years, and I intend to do it for a lot more years to come.
Spinach, mushrooms, beans, oatmeal, wholewheat pasta, corn and potatoes are all healthy sources of protein. Iron can be found in lentils, beans, leafy vegetables, pistachios and tofu. Green leafy vegetables such as collard greens, kale, bok choy and romaine lettuce are great for calcium, as well as nuts, oranges, kidney beans, lima beans, whole grains, lentils, raisins, broccoli and brussel sprouts.
On his website , Rip Esselstyn explains that the only nutrient that you may develop a deficiency in on a plant-based diet is vitamin B12. If this is a concern, you can get your daily supply from two tablespoons of nutritional yeast, a glass of fortified soya milk, a bowl of fortified cereal or a 500 milligram B12 supplement. That’s not bad compared to the number of omnivores who can eat anything they want, but choose to eat only the bad stuff and therefore develop lots of deficiencies.
Deficiencies are sometimes unavoidable, no matter what you eat. Both my father and I have problems giving blood due to our iron count being ‘at the lower end of the normal scale’ (the story of my life!). I eat an iron-rich plant-based diet, and he eats meat.
Before I stopped eating dairy I was told by a dentist that I had a calcium deficiency. One of the solutions was to drink more cows milk. No matter how much milk I drank, it didn’t seem to make any difference. Since converting to a plant-based diet, my calcium levels are fine.
So, next time you meet a vegetarian, please don’t look so surprised that they’re still able to stand.