If you’re remotely curious about food and health, you will undoubtedly want to know about the best vegetarian foods for nutrition and health. And you’ll soon realise that nutrition is more complicated than it seems at first glance.
Welcome to our Vegetarian Food Focus: First Look Series.
You may have to decide how to apply your knowledge on healthy eating, but what about nutrition? How does that work?
Let did into that but first, let’s answer the question posed – What are the best vegetarian foods for nutrition and health.
The Best Vegetarian Foods for Nutrition and Health
The best vegetarian foods for nutrition and health include various vegetables (dark green like spinach and leafy greens), whole grain products (whole wheat bread or pasta), legumes (beans & lentils), nuts & seeds.
Thanks to these foods, vegetarians can maintain a healthy diet and their general state of health.
- Green Vegetables are rich in potassium, magnesium and especially fibre which is very helpful for weight management and proper digestion.
Leafy Green Vegetables
- Leafy green vegetables offer high amounts of folic acid, which helps with the development of red blood cells & with preventing memory loss.
Legumes (beans and lentils)
- Legumes are high in plant protein content, always suitable for your diet.
Nuts & Seeds
- Nuts & Seeds are rich in unsaturated fatty acids that keep you fuller longer because their fat tends to be digested more slowly by the body.
Fruit and Whole Grains
- Fruit and whole grains are essential components of a healthy vegetarian diet; they are rich in fibre, antioxidants and various micronutrients that boost your health.
- Healthy cooking is also necessary; frying or deep-frying should be avoided as much as meat consumption because these processes produce many free radicals, which can cause chronic diseases like cancer.
In reality, nothing is simple despite all that gets said. Really. It’s the same with nutrients.
We look at individual functions of what takes place in our bodies as if they were light switches, on/off, good or bad.
The reality is far more complex.
In his book SuperEating, How To Devise The Ultimate Eating Plan, Ian Marber explains that the ideal approach is to get the nutrients to work together for maximum benefit.
And to do that, you’d need to understand which food deliver which nutrients. Then you’d need to understand the interplay between the nutrients.
Nutrition, then, is understanding the relationships between the nutrients, which ones help and which hinder the absorption of nutrients.
Ian describes three relationships between the nutrients.
- One nutrient may be working with or assisting another,
- One nutrient may remain passive while another takes effect and
- A 3rd party-substance may affect or influence the activity or absorption of nutrients.
“Exercise as an activity is better by far than any medicine
you could ever take”.
In other words, you may be thwarting yourself by being unaware of this nutritional interplay.
What Are Nutrients?
Your body extracts nutrients from what you eat, which helps with your body’s nutrition. Nutrients get derived automatically from every combination of food and liquid we consume.
Nutrition is an integral part of healthy eating habits, which affects our health much more than scientists are aware of today.
All nutrients are involved in biochemical processes that lead to prevention, enhancement and stopping or slowing down something in our bodies, all leading to the positive outcome of keeping us alive.
According to Wikipedia, the nutrients help all living things survive, grow and reproduce. And by living things, we, of course, mean humans, plants and animals.
According to Wikipedia, there are seven classes of nutrients –
We can subdivide the nutrients into the following: –
- Macro-nutrients (Essential fatty acids, Carotenoid, Glucosinolate, Organosulphide, Phyto-oestrogen, Bioflavonoids)
- Micro-nutrients (Vitamins, Minerals)
But What Is Nutrition?
Wikipedia describes nutrition like this: “Nutrition is the biochemical and physiological process by which an organism uses food to support its life. It includes ingestion, absorption, assimilation, biosynthesis, catabolism and excretion”.
Think of nutrition as the processing of the nutrients that affect: –
- mental health
- health overall
- children’s development
- sleep and sleep patterns
- bodily growth
- All aspects of living.
What Are Food Additives?
Food manufacturers, for various reasons, often add ingredients to their products that often significantly impact our health. These substances get referred to as additives – they make foods more attractive or easier to prepare and preserve.
In some cases, these additives can harm your health in the long run because of their negative nutritional value.
For example, the E additives (sometimes called E numbers) cause some children to be hyperactive. But as each child is unique, it may get affected differently.
Its impact may manifest as something else like itching, rashes or skin disorders of differing severity.
Additives get added for many reasons. Some preserve food; some make the food look more presentable, add flavour, add colouring, avoid degradation, extend its shelf-life, and, among other things, provide consistent food quality.
Just-food.co.uk defines the role of additives as “To improve the keeping quality of a food, e.g. preventing microbial spoilage which can cause food-borne illness and retarding oxidisation which can cause fats and oils to become rancid.”
So despite the negative attention they garner, our food would appear quite different without them.
Nutrition Works Mysteriously
The reason for this impact is that nutrition works mysteriously. Thus we cannot see it or detect its presence like food additives.
Dietitians and nutritionists should evaluate the nutrition and health effects of products. Still, this particular branch of medicine is not as popular as other branches, such as internal medicine or surgery.
Nutrition Works With Our Metabolic Processes
And why can this peculiarity of nutrition cause such a bad influence on your health?
Much of the answer lies in its ability to interfere with or work with or affect or influence your body’s daily metabolic processes.
Nutrition does not provide energy for these processes, but it regulates them somehow. Thus these metabolic processes accelerate or slow down depending on what you ingest.
What you eat gets stored or used depending on your lifestyle and metabolism.
When stored, your body breaks down:-
- your protein into amino acids,
- your carbs (glycogen stored in your liver) into glucose
- your fats (triglycerides) into fatty acids
… all so that stored energy can get released for use.
Simple Nutrition Rules
The best thing is to improve your nutrition habits by adopting a few simple rules.
- taking regular exercise
- avoiding smoking
- reducing alcohol consumption
- maintaining an ideal weight (the normal BMI)
- following a diet of nutrient-rich foods like lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, fruits & vegetables.
Exercise as an activity is better by far than any medicine you could ever take.
If you’re unable to take regular structured exercise, then whatever physical activity you can do will play its part. Just moving around will help but to a lesser extent.
However, don’t postpone exercise until some future magical day. As we wait for that day to come, we deteriorate.
And more specifically, even if we were to recognise it, our habits and inclinations will prevent us. Luckily, exercise will always help.
But why wait to begin exercising when the chances of being in a worse physical (or perhaps mental) state increase?
Guidelines on good nutrition include various valid recommendations regardless of whether you follow a vegetarian or non-vegetarian diet.
Let’s concentrate on the specific things for plant-based diets, i.e., vegetarian foods for nutrition and health. What are your options in terms of healthy eating if you prefer an all-plant diet?
A healthy vegetarian diet got based on general advice for any other healthy diet. Vegans, Lacto-Ovo vegetarians, and those who eat fish or poultry should follow recommendations on foods rich in protein & calcium and low-fat dairy products.
These will include eggs as a healthy source of proteins and unsaturated vegetable oils for cooking leading to a healthy all-plant diet.
Essential nutrients found in plants are vitamins, minerals and fibre.
People who eat meat also benefit from these nutrients.
Plants absorb nutrients through their roots and leaves, and we benefit from that in our food.
Still, they are vital for vegetarians because they either cannot get them from an animal product-based diet or their bodies cannot absorb them in an optimum way.
Vitamins & Minerals
- Vitamins & Minerals play a critical role in regulating your metabolism and general state of well-being. They help to support growth, development and body functions.
Vitamins C & Vitamins E
- Vitamins C & E prevent the formation of free radicals that cause premature ageing and various chronic diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disorders.
- Other vitamins (B group) boost your immune system’s efficiency by providing it with essential vitamins that produce energy in cells.
Developing countries face the problem of malnutrition in general, especially vitamin A deficiency, which is responsible for up to 500,000 cases of blindness every year.
That’s why iron-rich foods like red meat are essential in their diets, but we should replace them with plant sources of iron because excess amounts of this metal can be hazardous.
Antioxidants are also plentiful in plants, especially fruits and vegetables with high amounts of Vitamin C.
So there you have it, the kinds of foods that help with the best nutrition and health.
If you have any comments, be sure to leave them below.