Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Vegetarian Diet can help prevent Osteoporosis

You probably know that eating a vegetarian diet can decrease the incidence of heart disease and certain types of cancers. You may also know that it can make you slimmer and healthier. But so many of the health studies are done on men. What about women and the impact of a vegetarian diet on their health as they age?

Diets that are high in protein, especially in animal protein, tend to cause the body to excrete more calcium, oxalate, and uric acid. These three substances are the main components of urinary tract stones. British researchers have advised that persons with a tendency to form kidney stones should follow a vegetarian diet. The American Academy of Family Physicians states that high animal protein intake is largely responsible for the high prevalence of kidney stones in the United States and other developed countries and recommends protein restriction for the prevention of recurrent kidney stones.

For many of the same reasons, vegetarians are at a lower risk for osteoporosis. Since animal products force calcium out of the body, eating meat can promote bone loss. In nations with mainly vegetable diets (and without dairy product consumption), osteoporosis is less common than in the U.S., even when calcium intake is also less than in the U.S. Calcium is important, but there is no need to get calcium from dairy products.

We continue to consume meat, while at the same time downing calcium supplements and prescription drugs to prevent osteoporosis, that often have drastic side effects. And most experts agree that calcium supplements are inferior to calcium derived from natural food sources. Doesn’t it make more sense (and cents) to get your calcium from eating a healthier diet?

What are some good vegetarian sources of calcium? Orange juice, for one. Dry beans, such as black-eyed peas, kidney beans and black beans are another good source, as are dark leafy vegetables such as broccoli and kale. Tofu is also a good source of calcium.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Making the Transition to a Vegetarian Diet

If you’ve made the commitment to becoming vegetarian yet finding it difficult to make the transition in your diet and your lifestyle, here’s some suggestions on how to make the switch a smoother ride.

Start out with committing to be a vegetarian for three days per week for the first couple of weeks. Start substituting ingredients in your favorite dishes to make them truly meatless. Throw in mushrooms to that marinara sauce to take the place of meatballs, or try some textured vegetable protein (TVP) in that lasagna recipe. Making simple replacements in your tried and true recipes can inspire you to stay on the vegetarian track once you see how delicious they can be.

Next, commit to five days per week for the next two weeks. Study the natural foods aisle at your local grocer, or make it a point to introduce yourself to the local health foods store. Treat yourself to a few new vegetarian products and try them in your next meal. The internet can be a great source of vegetarian recipes. And don’t limit yourself to being vegetarian only at home; most all restaurants offer delicious vegetarian entrees, so be sure to try them. You may even find inspiration for your home cooking by doing so.

Now all that’s left to do is add two more days on your week, and you’ll be a converted vegetarian all week long! After all, you’ve been doing it for a month now; you’ve become a seasoned rookie in the game. Take pride in your accomplishments, because not only have you made positive changes in your lifestyle and eating habits, but for the environment and animals as well. Remember it’s not about being perfect; every animal-positive change you make it your diet has a great effect. By rewarding yourself for each vegetarian choice you make, and you’ll be motivated to continue in the right direction.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Vegetarian diet for a toddler

Though many people have the idea that feeding a toddler a vegetarian diet isn’t safe, so long as parents take care to make sure that all the appropriate nutrients are met, it’s actually quite healthy. Some benefits to a lifelong, proper vegetarian diet include a lower risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.

The main problem with vegetarianism and toddler nutrition is making sure your child gets enough nutrients and calories. Calorie consumption is important for ensuring your toddler has the energy he needs to play hard and grow.

It can be challenging to develop a well-rounded vegetarian toddler menu that provides enough protein and iron. Since toddlers already have such a small appetite, it can be difficult to get them to eat enough vegetables or beans to receive all of their nutrients. Therefore, it is important that vegetarian children are served nutrient-dense foods.

Iron can be found in many vegetarian-friendly foods. Kidney beans, lima beans, green beans, and spinach are all excellent sources of iron. However, unlike iron derived from animal sources, iron from vegetables can be hard for your body to absorb properly. But serving a vitamin C rich food with those beans or spinach can make the iron easier for your toddler to absorb. Some great sources of vitamin C include tomatoes, oranges, broccoli, red peppers, and cantaloupe.

Soybeans and tofu are a great source of protein for adults and children over four. For toddlers, though, it shouldn’t be used as their main source of protein. In this instance, compliment the tofu or soybeans that you serve with soymilk that has been fortified with vitamins and minerals. Not only will this help provide some protein, it will also help your toddler’s nutrition by providing calcium, and vitamins A and D, which can often be hard to get in a vegan diet.

While it is possible to raise a healthy vegan, it can take a bit more work. You may need to supplement your toddler’s diet to ensure they get all the nutrition that they need. Vitamin B-12 can be especially difficult for vegans to get enough of. While vegetables contain some B-12 vitamins, the body does not easily absorb these. Your toddler’s healthcare provider can help you decide on a B-12 suitable for toddlers.

A diet that does not allow for calcium can also be detrimental to your child’s health. Calcium helps to make bones stronger and aids in proper growth and development. Choose soymilk that is calcium-fortified, but be sure it’s also fortified with other nutrients that your toddler needs for good nutrition.

Friday, October 20, 2006

A vegetarian diet for a child

Eating habits are set in early childhood. Choosing a vegetarian diet can give your child—and your whole family—the opportunity to learn to enjoy a variety of wonderful, nutritious foods. Offer your child a wide variety of grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and soy products, keep it simple and make it fun, and they’ll learn good eating habits that will last them a lifetime.

Children raised on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes grow up to be slimmer and healthier and even live longer than their meat-eating friends. It is much easier to build a nutritious diet from plant foods than from animal products, which contain saturated fat, cholesterol, and other substances that growing children can do without. As for essential nutrients, plant foods are the preferred source because they provide sufficient energy and protein packaged with other health-promoting nutrients such as fiber, antioxidant vitamins, minerals and healthy fats.

The complex carbohydrates found in whole grains, beans, and vegetables provide the ideal energy to fuel a child’s busy life. Encouraging the consumption of brown rice, whole wheat breads and pastas, rolled oats, and corn, as well as the less common grains barley, quinoa, millet, and others, will boost the fiber and nutrient content of a child’s diet. In addition, it will help steer children away from desiring sugary sweet drinks and treats.

And though children need protein to grown, they don’t need high-protein, animal-based foods. Different varieties of grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits supplies plenty of protein, making protein deficiency very unlikely.

Very young children need a bit more healthy fats in their diets than their parents. Healthier fat sources include soybean products, avocados, and nut butters. Parents will want to make sure their child’s diet includes a regular source of vitamin B-12, which is needed for healthy nerve function and blood. Vitamin B-12 is abundant in many commercial cereals, fortified soy and rice milks, and nutritional yeast. Growing children also need iron found in a variety of beans and green, leafy vegetables and when coupled with the vitamin C in fruits and vegetables, iron absorption is enhanced.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The benefits of being vegetarian if you are diabetic

Diabetics have to choose any food they eat very carefully, as each food choice they make has a profound impact on their overall health on a meal-to-meal basis. Diabetes affects people of all ages, both genders, from all walks of life and backgrounds. Untreated, it can cause wounds to heal slowly, infections take longer to cure, blindness, and kidney failure. Diet is one of the most important ways of controlling diabetes, and a vegetarian lifestyle with its emphasis on low fat, high fiber, and nutrient-rich foods is very complementary.

Affecting more than 30 million people worldwide, this disease prevents the body from processing foods properly. Usually, most of the food we eat is digested and converted to glucose, a sugar which is carried by the blood to all cells in the body and used for energy. The hormone insulin then helps glucose pass into cells. But diabetics are unable to control the amount of glucose in their blood because the mechanism which converts sugar to energy does not work correctly. Insulin is either absent, present in insufficient quantities or ineffective. As a result glucose builds up in the bloodstream and leads to problems such as weakness, inability to concentrate, loss of co-ordination and blurred vision. If the correct balance of food intake and insulin isn’t maintained, a diabetic can also experience blood sugar levels that are too low. If this state continues for a prolonged period of time, it can lead to coma and even death.

Though incurable, diabetes can be successfully controlled through diet and exercise, oral medications, injections of insulin, or a combination. Instead of counting calories diabetics must calculate their total carbohydrate intake so that no less than half their food is made up of complex carbohydrates. Many diabetic vegetarians have discovered that as a result of their meatless diet, they’ve had to use insulin injections less, which gives them a feeling of power and control over their disease.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Vegetarianism and Animal Suffering

There are many compelling reasons to move towards a vegetarian diet, many of them health-related. But many people refuse to eat meat because of the inhumane treatment of the animals that are mass-produced to feed the population. Animal farming on the scale that it needs to be to satisfy consumption is grotesquely cruel. When you eat meat, you’re eating the flesh of an animal whose life has been artificially shortened by overfeeding it to get it to a slaughterhouse earlier. They’re kept in small pens and cages, where they endure chronic stress. If they bear their young live, their babies are taken from them, sometimes a day after they’re born. They’re fed growth hormones and antibiotics and kept from the natural behaviors and actions that characterize the normal life span. Pigs aren’t allowed to root. Calves are kept immobile. Chickens are kept in cages, their beaks seared off with a burning hot knife to thwart aggressive behaviors that are the result of unnatural confinement.

Do you really think the flesh of the animal is separate from its spirit and its energy? The agony and stress they endure in their shortened lives infuses every cell of their bodies. Consider that depression and stress can make humans ill, can infect our muscles and organs. Is an animal so very different? We don’t need meat or milk for survival. We’re no longer a hunting society; we’re merely a consuming society.

Isn’t it time we all started thinking differently of what we consume to nourish our bodies? We’re evolved from herbivores, and yet we’ve veered off our own evolutionary path. One can make a case for hunting and eating meat when it’s the only means for survival. But that’s no longer the case and our options are plentiful. Do they have to include the flesh of suffering animals? How can that possibly be considered nourishment?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

What is PETA?

PETA stands for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and is an organization devoted to changing that mindset among humans. PETA are against using animals for food or for clothing, especially for what they consider the needless or particularly inhumane use of animals, such as killing or trapping them for their fur.

PETA are passionate about their cause. In their own words, they believe that animals have rights and deserve to have their best interests taken into consideration, regardless of whether they are useful to humans. Like you, they are capable of suffering and have an interest in leading their own lives; therefore, they are not ours to use—for food, clothing, entertainment, experimentation, or any other reason.

We are supposedly an evolved society. But how evolved can a society be that thrives on the suffering of animals? In his excellent book, When Elephants Weep author Jeffrey Masson explores the emotional lives of animals and presents compelling evidence for it. As a species, we must begin to re-evaluate our place on this earth and where we fit in relation to every other creature that inhabits it. PETA believes this as well and is a passionate advocate for the rights of animals.