Ancient Indian science has broadly categorized the food on the basis of its content into satvik (vegetarian) and tamsik (non vegetarian) food. Vegetarian food is preferred over non vegetarian because it is very supportive in staying fit and healthy. The common perception about the vegetarian food is that it is a food which excludes animal flesh and poultry but there is more to it. There are four types of vegetarian food which are
- Lacto vegetarian diet which contains dairy products but excludes meat, fish, eggs, poultry and the products derived from them.
- Lacto – ovo vegetarian diet allows dairy products and eggs but excludes animal flesh and fish
- Ovo vegetarian diet allows eggs but excludes meat, fish, poultry and dairy products
- Vegan diet is the most restrict form which excludes every animal product
Nutrient content in vegetarian diet
Vegetarian diet is usually rich in carbs, fiber, n-6 fatty acids, carotenoids, folic acid, vitamin C and E and magnesium. But the level of protein, saturated fat, long-chain n-3 fatty acids, retinol, vitamin B12, calcium and Zinc is relatively low as compared to animal based food.
If you are following a vegetarian diet then your topmost concern is to get the best nutrition from your food. Here are some plant based foods which you should include in your daily vegetarian diet to increase the low levels of protein, omega 3 and vitamin B12.
Pulses – beans, legumes and lentils are known as pulses and these are rich source of proteins and fibers (soluble and insoluble). Soy bean and products derived from it are known as super food for vegans due to its high protein content. Other protein rich foods are nuts, seeds, mushrooms, broccoli, walnuts, whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, and corn which you should include in your daily intake of food.
Calcium rich food – it is true that animal meat is rich in calcium but there are many vegetarian options which you can consume to get sufficient amount of calcium. These calcium rich sources are collard greens, kale, broccoli, beans, sesame tahini, and almonds. You can also get it from calcium fortified rice milk or soy, tofu and orange juice.
Omega 3 sources – this nutrient is essential for the proper functioning of heart, brain, skin and joints. You can get Omega 3 ALA from Flaxseeds, walnuts, and canola oil. Besides that vegan DHA capsules are available in market which contains algae derived omega 3.
Iron rich food – spinach is the popular source of iron and it is easily available round the year. There are other sources which contains high amount of iron is beans, black-eyed peas, lentils, chickpeas, oatmeal, dried fruits, nuts, sunflower seeds, nutritional yeast, molasses, and grains such as quinoa and millet. Vitamin C facilitates the absorption of iron in the body therefore you should take those foods which contains iron as well as Vitamin C like dark green leafy vegetables.
Vitamin B12 concern – this is important because vegan diet has very low amount of food and you can overcome its deficiency by including fortified nutritional yeast, some cereals, and fortified soy and rice milks into your daily diet. You can also take multivitamin or Vitamin B12 supplement to compensate the absence of this nutrient in your diet.
Vitamin D – our body is able to synthesize vitamin D provided you expose yourself to sunlight for 15 – 20 minutes per day. There are many nondairy milk available in market which contains calcium and vitamin D same as you found in your fortified orange juice.
The above mentioned nutrient sources will increase the nutritional value of your vegetarian food. These foods are healthier than the animal foods as these are cholesterol free, low in saturated fats, high in fiber, complex carbohydrates, and cancer-fighting antioxidants which can boost your immune system and keep many diseases at bay. Be vegetarian to live a healthy life.