WATERCRESS FOR EVERY VEGETARIAN
So you want to be a vegetarian?
Many people think avoiding meat is the healthiest way to eat. But theres more to a vegetarian diet than just giving up meat. Its more about what you eat than what you leave out that makes a diet healthy. Adding green leafy vegetables like watercress is a tasty way to round out vegetarian meals. Plus watercress has more calcium than leaf lettuce and spinach an important nutrient. Heres the skinny on a healthy way to go meatless.
Which type of vegetarianism is right for you?
People may call themselves vegetarians, but its important to know there is more than one type of vegetarian. Lacto-ovo vegetarians use dairy (lacto) and eggs (ovo) but no poultry, meat or seafood. Others may eat eggs, but shun all other forms of animal products and are called ovo-vegetarians. Similarly, if dairy products are included in a meatless diet, the term is lacto-vegetarians. Finally, the most restrictive group is called vegan (pronounced vee-gan). This group eats only plant foods.
Sound like an oxymoron? How can someone eat meat and be a vegetarian at the same time? Semi-vegetarians occasionally eat a steak or have a pepperoni pizza and then go right back to a plant-based diet. Or they may eat mostly fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts, but often include small amounts of fish or chicken. Cruciferous vegetables like watercress, broccoli, and cabbage are certain to boost cancer-fighting enzymes in a semi-vegetarian.
Be a healthy vegetarian
is composed of 20 different amino acids. If one is missing, protein cant be formed. Animal protein and soybeans are the only "complete" proteins, having all 20 amino acids present. Although plants supply protein, it is not the same quality as animal protein. In the past, scientists thought it was necessary to combine certain foods at each meal to form complete proteins from plants. Thankfully, this advice is now outdated and it is now much easier to eat a healthful meatless diet.
Protein is needed on a daily basis to perform many functions in the body. It is a part of every cell, enzyme system, and hormone. Protein may also supply energy if there are not enough carbohydrates and fats available. However, if you consume more protein than you need, the excess will be stored as fat. Meats and eggs are the best sources of protein, but vegetarians can still get plenty of
by eating a variety of plant foods.
Powerful Plant Protein
Plant foods having the most protein are legumes (beans, peas and lentils), sunflower seeds, and nuts. Grains and vegetables such as watercress have smaller amounts of
. Eating a wide variety of these foods will supply enough protein to maintain health.
An unsung hero,
is vital for cleaning out the digestive system, helping to regulate blood sugar levels and even helps rid the body of cholesterol. Fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts win high marks for fiber, while meat, eggs, and milk are fiber free. Watercress, leaf lettuce and spinach are also important fiber foods.
B12 is necessary for red blood cell formation and many other cellular functions. This important nutrient is naturally present in meat, dairy and eggs. Strict vegetarians (vegans) should look for cereals or vegetarian products that are fortified with vitamin
. Its also called cyanocobalamin, the type of B12 that is most easily used by the body.
Folic acid or Folate
Such an important nutrient,
plays a leading role in cellular production. Folic acid contributes to making every cell in our body and also the DNA and RNA that set the pattern for cells to reproduce. Pregnant vegetarians need more folic acid to prevent birth defects such as spina bifida. Leafy greens like watercress, lettuce and spinach are among the leading sources of folate.
Calcium and Vitamin D
These nutrients are necessary to keep bones strong and to prevent osteoporosis. Since milk products are the usual source of calcium and vitamin D, vegetarians who avoid dairy must find another supply. Few foods have Vitamin D but our bodies can make the nutrient after exposure to sunlight.
fortified juices and soy beverages, some cereals, almonds, broccoli, watercress, sunflower seeds, beans, kale, collard and mustard greens are all good sources of calcium. In fact, only 1 cup of raw watercress has 12% of the Daily Value of calcium.
Iron and Zinc
Non-meat sources of
include legumes, whole grain bread and cereals, tofu, dried fruit, nuts. Iron is also found in leafy greens, like watercress, spinach and beet tops as well as blackstrap molasses. Brown rice is another good source of zinc.
When it comes to
, plant foods hold the cards. Fruits, veggies and grains are loaded with plant chemicals that fight heart disease, stop cancer cells from reproducing and even boost the immune system. Watercress is a member of the well respected Cruciferous family of kale, broccoli, and cauliflower. On an ORAC test, "ORAC is a relatively new scientific assay that measures a materials propensity to act as an antioxidant...increasingly thought to be a critical component in defeating and preventing cancer and other dieases" , for antioxidant activity, watercress scored well above spinach, Brussels sprouts and broccoli.
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