This week I had the exciting opportunity to do a guest post on the SPE Certified Blog! I chose the topic of nutrition myths because there are so many that run rampant through our society and the media. I believe that it is important that these myths be proven or dis-proven with current, science-based information. For the post I decided to focus specifically on myths surrounding vegetarians. Though I am not personally a vegetarian, I still found it interesting to learn what goes in to making a meatless diet healthy.
Myth: “It is impossible to get enough protein on a vegetarian diet”
- Not only is it possible to get enough protein from plant sources, there are other nutritional benefits as well, including a greater intake of fiber, potassium, immune system-boosting phytonutrients, and a lower intake of saturated fat and cholesterol.
- Plant-based protein sources generally have lower digestibility than animal protein. Therefore, vegetarians should consume more protein on average than their meat and dairy-eating counterparts. The RDA recommends .36 grams of protein per pound of body weight daily. Vegetarians should aim for .41 grams per pound.
- Healthy plant-based sources of protein include legumes, soy products, whole grains, and nuts. Legumes, such as black beans and lentils, are excellent sources of fiber, vitamins and minerals and low in fat.
- Soy products, such as tofu or tempeh, are some of the most versatile vegetarian protein sources. Tofu can be incorporated into soups or stir-fries, and tempeh can be marinated or grilled to be included in salad or sandwiches.
Myth: “You must eat dairy products to build strong bones”
- The key nutrients for bone health are calcium, vitamin D, and protein. While these nutrients are present in dairy such as cow’s milk, they also exist in many plant-based foods.
- Some studies show that the ratio of dietary calcium to protein is a better predictor of bone health than calcium intake alone. Vegetarians should try to consume a variety of nutrient-dense foods such kale (1 cup=179 mg calcium), tofu (4 oz= 11 g protein, 200-300 mg calcium), and soymilk (1 cup= 7g protein, 200-300 mg calcium).
- While spinach and rhubarb are good sources of calcium, they are also high in oxalates, which decrease calcium absorption in the body. Therefore it is advisable to favor other green vegetables more often.
- Vegetarians may find it is easier to meet the 1000 mg daily requirement for calcium needs if calcium-fortified foods or dietary supplements are utilized.
- Calcium absorption can be maximized by pairing calcium-rich foods with foods containing vitamin C.