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Starting out as a Vegetarian

by in Beginner, Why Vegetarian 23/10/2012

Starting out as a VegetarianContrary to popular believe, vegetarian living is not half as difficult as some people proclaim it to be. To become a vegetarian one simply requires dedication, resolve, and perseverance, especially for those accustomed to eating meat regularly. Granted, you might find it difficult to give up meat at first. However, with proper guidance and resolve you should be able to adapt to the new lifestyle. Below are a few tips on how you can start out as a vegetarian:

Define The Type Of Vegetarian You Want To Be
It is imperative to start out by defining what type of vegetarian you aspire to be. Basically, there are several types of vegetarians. These are:

  • Lacto-vegetarians
    These are vegetarians do not eat meat or eggs but can consume dairy products. Good examples include Hindu vegetarians and classical residents of the Mediterranean region such as the Pythagoreans.
  • Lacto-ovo vegetarians
    These are vegetarians who keep off meat but eat dairy products and eggs. Lacto-ovo vegetarians are commonly found in the Western world.
  • Ovo-vegetarians
    This group eats eggs but shuns away from meat and dairy products.
  • Vegans
    This group is also known as dietary vegans. They do not eat any animal product including meat, dairy products such as milk and cheese, eggs, and even honey.

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Know Your Reasons For The Change
It will be important to evaluate and understand the reasons for your desire to change. This will help you define your goals and objectives to ease your transition from one diet lifestyle to another. There are a variety of reasons why people become vegetarians. These range from environmental concerns, ethical issues about slaughter of animals for food, and religion to a personal desire to live a healthier and longer life. Defining your reasons will ensure success in your new lifestyle.

Take A Gradual Approach
You might be overwhelmed by the prospect of not eating meat again when starting out which is why you need to go through the transition in a gradual process. For example you might start by eliminating a single type of meat such as beef from your meals. Next drop off chicken, fish, and so on. At the same time strive to incorporate vegetarian dishes into your meals gradually. You might start by having a couple of vegetarian dishes several times a week as you continue eliminating meat from your diet. Keep on trying out different combinations of vegetable dishes such as vegetable lasagna and pasta primavera. Get a vegetarian cookbook to experiment with different meatless recipes. Eventually, you’ll convert all your favorite foods into meatless versions.

Make It Fun And Worthwhile
Contrary to what most people believe, a vegetarian lifestyle is not just about boiled rice and lettuce leaves. There are hundreds of different varieties of grains, vegetables, pulses, nuts, and fruits that make vegetarianism quite exciting. You’ll find all the possibilities and combinations inexhaustible. Other nutritious options to have in your fridge include whole grains, fruits, seeds, legumes, soy products, and tofu among others.

Always Explain And Defend Your Position To Others
There are times when you’ll find yourself in an awkward position of explaining your decision to become a vegetarian. Simply respond in a non-judgmental but honest manner. Also, give reasons for the change of lifestyle. By doing so, your peers or close acquaintances will learn to respect your choices. At one time or another, your new lifestyle might be challenged by the social dynamics such as your friends on a get-together gathering ordering take-out. In such an event, try to avoid the “inconvenience” by carrying your home made vegetarian snacks to social get-together meetings. In fact, carry extra food to allow your friends a bite. This will make the situation less intimidating. Always keep vegetarian snacks around you, especially when spending a night out partying with friends.

Educate Yourself More On Vegetarianism
In the early stages of your new vegetarian lifestyle, you might suffer from constant pangs of hunger, tiredness, and irritability. To fight these, ensure that you eat enough at short intervals. You’ll, however, need to know which foods provide enough calories in order to succeed. This information is widely and readily available on many vegetarian websites and in books, which you can easily access at the public library.

Why Vegetarianism?

If you love meat, you might feel giving it up would constitute deprivation and take away much of the pleasure in life. Your body would beg to differ.

The human body is not designed for digesting meat. True carnivores have claws and fangs for tearing off chunks of meat and very short and straight intestines to eliminate meat quickly and avoid poisoning, as meat putrefies in around four to five hours. Like herbivores, humans have extremely long, convoluted intestines to fully absorb nutrients from plant matter and grain. Carnivores also have twenty times the stomach acid to break down meat than we do. And carnivores live short lives. Compare a cat’s life to that of the elephant that lives one hundred years as some of us do.

Nor have humans typically lived as omnivores. States the American Dietetic Association, “most of mankind for most of human history has lived on a vegetarian or Lacto-ovo vegetarian diet.”

This suggests that changing over to a vegetarian diet will allow your body to function as it is designed and this clearly has advantages over eating meat.
Here’s a list.

  1. More bang for your buck.  Typically, vegetarians replace meat with more nutritious foods, such as fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, and so on. In so doing, you get more of the nutrients your body needs, translating into better health, less illness, sharper thinking, more stable moods, and more energy.
  2. Enhance health.  Numerous studies have shown that vegetarians tend to have a lower risk of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, cancer and other diseases. Drs Dean Ornish and Caldwell Esselstyn have used a vegan diet to prevent and reverse heart disease with a 100% success rate. Vegetarians have 40 percent of the cancer rate of meat-eaters. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1990 found that regular meat consumption increases the risk of colon cancer by as much as 300%.
  3. Reduce fat/increase fiber, antioxidants, micronutrients. Vegetarians are healthier in large part because meat contains a ton of fat, especially saturated fat, and no fiber, antioxidants or micronutrients, compounds that protect our bodies from the stress of day to day living. Cut out meat and you cut out much bad fat, along with LDL or “bad” cholesterol – the presumed causes of heart disease — and at the same time get loads of the fiber, antioxidants, and other micronutrients that form the basis of good health.
  4. Reduce acidity. Meat is highly acidic and offsets your blood Ph, which should be slightly alkaline, and this sets up an inner terrain for disease. Reducing acidity in the blood by cutting out meat is another reason for vegetarians to have better health.
  5. Digest your food more quickly. Meat takes long to digest – up to four days –and it often putrifies in your system before you expel the waste. This encourages bad bacteria to grow and this leads to disease, offering another reason for the better health of vegetarians.
  6. Maintain stronger bones. Studies show that by age 65, the average meat-eater has twice the bone loss of vegetarians. The culprit is likely excess protein consumption that interferes with poor retention and absorption of calcium.
  7. Less food poisoning. Meat is a breeding ground for harmful bacteria, especially if not stored, prepared or cooked correctly, and millions of people each year get food poisoning as a result. Not eating meat lowers your risk of food poisoning.
  8. Maintain appropriate weight. Numerous studies show that vegetarians are slimmer and are less likely to be obese than meat eaters.
  9. Longevity. Vegetarians live an average of seven years longer than meat-eaters do, while Vegans tend to live about fifteen years longer.
  10. Reduce toxic exposure to chemicals. Unless organic, meat is usually treated with chemicals and preservatives to increase shelf life so meat stays fresher, and to make the meat look more appealing. These chemicals can be toxic and the EPA estimates that about 95 percent of pesticides in a meat-eaters diet come from eating meat, fish and dairy. Fish is more problematic as it contains carcinogens and metals such as mercury and arsenic that cannot be eliminated by cooking them. The New England Journal of Medicine reported that the breast milk of vegetarian women contained only one to two percent of the pesticide contamination than that of the average breast-feeding woman who eats meat.
  11. Reduce animal suffering. Animals raised for food are crammed into filthy spaces and endure horrific treatment. Many remain conscious while being slaughtered. Eliminate meat and you eliminate much of their suffering.
  12. Help the environment. The meat industry harms the environment in a multitude of ways, from wasting resources as animals raised for food eat enough grain to feed the world, to a waste of fuel, to the pollution caused by their waste matter, and much more.
  13. Save Money A vegetarian diet is less expensive than a meat eating diet.

How to become a successful vegetarian.

  1. Believe that vegetarianism is the healthiest way to go. Any lifestyle change or habit change is hard and requires motivation. To succeed at becoming a vegetarian, you will have to be firmly committed to be as healthy as you can, and believe that vegetarianism is the best way to accomplish this. In this way, when you fall off the wagon, you will be much more likely to pick yourself up and start again rather than give up trying to make this lifestyle change.
  2. Become educated. Before starting anything new, it’s best to learn as much as you can about the subject. To find out the value of being vegetarian, I suggest that you begin with Colin Campbell’s The China Study, which has converted many hardcore meat eaters to vegetarianism, including diehard junk food addict former president Bill Clinton. There are also many good sites on the Internet like GoVeg.com.
  3. Find good recipes. Being a vegetarian is not as hard as you think. Eat the pizza, the spaghetti, the taco and the nachos, just not with meat. If you can make any of these meat-free dishes, you are off to a great start. Also, check out the many vegetarian recipes available online or buy a vegetarian cookbook.
  4. Try one recipe a week. Start out by trying one new vegetarian recipe a week until you find a collection of staple recipes that you eat on a regular basis. In no time, you should have 7-10 recipes that you cook regularly, which is the average for most people. The best way to do this is to make something you enjoy but eliminate the meat. For instance, skip the pepperoni on the pizza. Don’t add fish to the sushi. Or try a meat substitute, like a veggie burger.
  5. Eliminate meat slowly. It’s best to gradually transition into vegetarianism as, for most people this will insure less cravings and increase the likelihood of sticking to a meatless way of life. Start by having one no-meat day, two the second week, three the third and so forth until you go the whole week without meat. At the same time, start to gradually fade red meat out as this is the least healthy flesh food. After a couple of weeks of going without red meat, try cutting out pork for a couple of weeks, then chicken, then seafood. In this way, you may hardly notice the difference and miss less your flesh food.
  6. Make a list. Think about foods you regularly eat, for breakfast, lunch, dinner, desserts and snacks and make a list of the meat ingredients. Across from the list, put in a vegetarian alternative. For example, in place of eggs and sausage for breakfast, try eggs and tofu. In place of bacon bits in your salad for lunch, put in soy bits.
  7. Get sufficient calories. For some vegetarians, and especially Vegans, getting sufficient calories to maintain your proper weight is a challenge. This is because the vegetarian diet is high in fiber and low in overall calories, due to the abundance of fruits and vegetables. It is important to take in 15 to 20 calories per pound of bodyweight. Start at the lower number and adjust up or down based on the progress that you are making. If gains are coming well and your body looks to be gaining muscle with a minimal gain in body fat, maintain or even slightly up your caloric intake. If the opposite is occurring, lower the calories until the desired effects are occurring.
  8. Don’t become a pudding veggie– Though being a vegetarian is a healthy way to eat, it won’t have benefits if you live on a “meatless” junk food diet. Try to stick with fruits and veggies, whole grains, beans, nuts, soy protein, low-fat dairy and other nutritious foods for the most part and avoid doing the following.
    1. Skimping on fruits and veggies. Choosing only grain, beans and vegetarian hamburgers that have lots of calories in place of loading up with veggies and fruits.
    2. Overdoing the fat and sugar. An excessive serving of eggs and dairy is not going to give you the energy, stamina and basic nutrition you need to develop your muscles. Likewise, consuming excessive fruit, refined and other simple carbohydrates will keep you from your goal.
    3. Eating lots of meat substitutes. Vegetarians who eat lots of meat substitutes, such as soy chicken dumplings, vegetarian sausages or vegetarian bacon, are basically eating junk food as these foods are heavily processed and contain abundant soda, which makes the body keep the liquids. Nutritionists recommend eating such foods occasionally, but never every day.
  9. Vary your diet. Don’t choose from too narrow a range of foods as this will become boring and not give you your full range of nutrients. Be experimental and try grains of which you are unfamiliar, like amaranth or teff, fruits you haven’t tried, like goji berries and loquats and so forth.
  10. Enjoy ethnic meals. Great vegetarian dishes can be found all over the world, from Italian pasta to middle Eastern hummus to vegetarian Sushi and vegetarian Mexican tacos. Have fun going to ethnic restaurants and then trying out different recipes at home.
  11. Tell friends & family. If you’re really going to become a vegetarian, you’ll have to inform relatives and friends. This way they won’t feel offended if you refuse a hamburger at a family gathering or suggest Tai food in place of a steak house for a family dinner. Give them information on why you’ve chosen to become a vegetarian but don’t preach or try to force vegetarianism on anyone.
  12. Plan ahead. One of the biggest reasons for going off a vegetarian lifestyle and particularly Vegan is to feel hungry and not have available food. So you grab whatever food is in your face when your stomach is growling. Prepare ahead. At home, be sure you have your fridge and pantry stacked with food for preparation and for quick meals, like hummus and pita, guacamole and chips or veggie sticks and the like. When you go out, have lots of veggie snacks with you like roasted (or raw) almonds, blue corn chips and salsa, low-fat granola, berries with soy yogurt, whole-grain cereals, Kashi crackers.
  13. Keep frozen vegetarian convenience foods on hand. Most supermarket frozen sections now have a choice of vegetarian dishes for a quick meal that can be microwaved. You might want to stock up on these when you are not in the mood for cooking and needing convenience food. Beware though that convenience foods tend to be more expensive than home-cooked stuff and typically not as healthy. Hedge your bets by getting organic like Amy’s frozen foods.
  14. Enjoy Vegetarian restaurants. Many urban areas now have vegetarian restaurants, many of them which also serve organic. Give them a try. If this is not convenient, eating as a vegetarian is not a problem. Order vegetable pizza, lasagna, sushi, tacos, nachos and so forth. Even if you are dining in a steak house, you can always order a large salad and rice, a salad and baked potato with steamed veggies.

First, let’s explore the importance of changing your diet.
To start with, what you consume from the end of your fork is exponentially a more effective form of “medicine” than what can be found at the bottom of a pharmaceutical prescription bottle. Food is without a doubt the most authoritative medicine available. If you can change this paradigm by thinking that all you need to do is “eat” your medicine, then by way of logic, your local green grocery store becomes your “pharmacy”. Many cultures have habitually eaten this way for centuries.

According to Dr. Mark Hyman from the Ultra Wellness Centre, food contains information that speaks to our genes and is not just giving calories for energy. Research in the field of nutrigenomics, examines how food “talks” to our DNA and will “tell” them to turn genes on or off which can lead to a healthier or unhealthier existence. What you eat, therefore, programs your body with messages of health or illness. This is why food plays a larger role than we realise and- to a larger extent- than we can fathom.

Unfortunately, little research has been done on the effects of eating habits in the prevention of heart palpitations. Very few studies can be drawn from directly on the relationship between positive eating habits and palpitations. However, saying that, there is enough conclusive evidence on the relationship between negative food habits and palpitations which also holds benefit for examination.

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