Dubai: Is a vegetarian diet really healthier than a non-vegetarian one?
Zenia Menon, a nutritionist and dietitian based in Dubai, confirms that you may be better off with adding more plants than animal products in your diet.
She said: “A vegan diet can be beneficial to keep major illnesses at bay such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and hypertension. There is a high amount of dietary fibre and nutrients such as potassium, magnesium, vitamins C and E and phytochemicals in plants, and those following plant-based diets can assure their health if they stick to some basic guidelines.”
However, with a plant-based diet, the source of protein and Vitamin B12 is always a question. Nevertheless, one can always include plant sources such as beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and mushrooms to make a power-packed meal.
Menon said: “As you start your day with a plant-based meal, all the Vitamin C, Folate and other vitamins coming in from the fruits and vegetables, they help boost your energy levels and keep your blood sugar levels in tab. From baked goods to smoothies, vegetables and fruits combined can make delicious meals. Non-dairy milk, like almond, soy and others, are great at breakfast to feed up on the calcium and protein. To boost the calcium content you can add spinach, kale and other dark green leafy vegetables to your morning smoothie, combined with antioxidant-rich berries. Tofu is also a great addition to increase protein content at breakfast an alternative to eggs.”
In her opinion, the food industry is dominating our health and diet now. "Plant-based diet helps with stabilizing your gut and reduces acidity," she added.
What many people don’t know, is that the body produces most of the proteins it needs, by combining substances called amino acids, which it gets from the food we eat.
Laura Allais-Mare, founder of Slow Food Dubai, explains that there are only eight essential amino acids that need to be in the food we eat.
She said: “Of the eight, two should receive special attention in a vegetarian diet. Variety is the secret to a complete diet. For vegetarians, there are many protein-rich foods, which rival the protein content of meat products. The protein content of foods such as nuts, peas and beans is very high.”
Organic food has significantly lower pesticide levels, lower multidrug-resistant bacteria levels and higher beneficial fat levels, than conventionally grown food, Allais-Mare explains.
She said: “People need to take personal responsibility for where their food comes from and how it has been grown.”