Happy World Vegetarian Day! It’s October 1st, but is Vegetarianism really the right choice for you?
In honor of World Vegetarian Day, I decided to write a blog about finding the right diet for you. I believe standard diets, like vegan, low-carb, gluten-free, are rarely the perfect fit for people and instead people need to experiment or use laboratory testing to help them find an individualized diet that is right for them. People always assume I am a vegetarian, maybe because I am a Naturopathic doctor or maybe because I am thin, but they are always surprised to hear I eat meat.
I grew up eating meat almost daily and then in my 20’s I drastically reduced the amount of meat I ate and I loved it. I never actually became a true vegetarian as I would eat meat if someone served it at a gathering, but I never cooked it for myself or ordered it in restaurants. During this period, I really enjoyed finding other foods to fill my diet, but after a few years I found out I was anemic which led me to reintroduce meat into my diet after trying unsuccessfully to get my iron up with supplements. I still currently eat meat a few times per week, but I am happy I ventured out of my original diet and found other items to fulfill my palate.
I believe everyone needs to find the right diet for them according to their stress level, environment, and age. I subscribe to the thinking that our needs change and we need to accommodate them with dietary changes. For example, I’ve had several friends, who were vegetarian for years, crave meat when they became pregnant. This is just one instance where the stress on the body changed thus creating a need or desire for a different diet.
I believe a lot of people choose to try vegetarianism because they feel like it is healthier. I find this to be a misconception for many as I have seen too many vegetarians who live off of pasta, pizza, cheese and candy. Although these items are meat free they are not considered the healthiest in my book especially today with all the people who are sensitive to either gluten or dairy or both. When I think of vegetarian meals I see big plates of leafy greens, colorful veggies and fruits, grains like millet, quinoa, and amaranth, beans like lentils, kidney and pinto, nuts and good oils like cold pressed organic olive oil. This is what most diets should consist of while the grass fed organic meats or clean fish should accompany these other healthy items if one chooses to include them.
I truly believe people do not eat enough of the best foods for them which are fresh, organic, produce, mainly vegetables. This is where we get cancer fighting antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that our bodies need to perform at their best. I recommend people have at least one day per week where they choose only vegetarian options that actually include fruits and vegetables. This gives your body a rest and super charges it with the nutrients it needs. From this once a week style you can also begin to choose one meal per day that doesn’t include meat or fish. This can start to change your palate to love vegetarian meals. An easy way to get your vegetable intake up is through juicing, and here in LA there are so many juice bars these days which make it easy. I love to see my patients drinking green juice either as part of a comprehensive cleanse or just as a meal replacement here and there.
As a Naturopathic doctor it is very important to me that my patients are eating a diet that is providing them with the nutrition they need. If you are interested in finding your individualized diet, please don’t hesitate to make an appointment so we can begin to figure it out for you together.
Sara Whitney, ND
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