Prof Jennie Brand-Miller answers your questions.
I have never been much of a meat eater and have decided to go completely vegetarian. Can you give me some tips on making sure that I get all the nutrients I need.
Building your diet around plant foods such as wholegrains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds gives you all the nutrients you need for long-term health and wellbeing.
Getting plenty of protein It’s not necessary to eat meat, chicken or fish to get enough protein. Plant proteins can provide you with all the essential amino acids you need. Stock your pantry with legumes, wholegrains (such as grainy breads, muesli, quinoa, amaranth, brown rice, pearl barley and rolled oats), nuts (particularly almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews and peanuts), and seeds (sesame seeds, tahini paste, and pumpkin seeds). They are also good sources of iron and zinc typically sourced from protein-rich foods. It’s even easier if you eat dairy foods and eggs.
Know your fats For vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike, the message today is know your fats. Focus on the good fats and give the bad ones the flick. Since vegetarians tend to consume more omega 6 and less omega 3, focus on including foods which are specifically sources of omega 3 such as linseeds, chia seeds and flaxseed oil along with walnuts, pecans and soya beans. When preparing meals, try using a variety of different oils, depending on the dish – a mono-unsaturated oil such as canola or olive oil is a good idea for cooking as they are both ‘omega-neutral’ meaning they will not worsen the balance of omega 6: omega 3.
Choosing quality carbs To make sure you are eating quality carbs, opt for whole or minimally processed foods that also provide fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals. Eat a wide variety of these foods including:
- Cereal grains such as barley, buckwheat, bulgur, maize, millet, oats, quinoa, rice, rye, spelt and wheat and the enormous variety of foods made from them including bread, breakfast cereals (with minimum if any added sugar), rice, pasta, noodles and couscous. Look for wholegrain varieties.
- Legumes like lentils, beans, chickpeas and split peas – home cooked or canned. Add them to meals and snacks and you will reduce the overall GI of your diet.
- Starchy vegetables like potatoes (Carisma is low GI), taro, yam and sweet potato plus parsnip, beetroot, pumpkin, carrot, turnips and peas and sweetcorn.
- Fruit – fresh, canned (in natural juice) or frozen. It doesn’t provide nearly as much carbohydrate as the cereal grains. Dried fruits are an exception, with many being as high in carbohydrate as cereals.
- Dairy foods like low fat milk and yoghurt or calcium-enriched soy. Cheese is not a source of carbohydrate as the lactose (milk sugar) is removed in processing.
This is an extract from The Low GI Vegetarian Cookbook. It is available from Amazon and good bookshops.
GI testing by an accredited laboratory
Dr Alexandra Jenkins
Glycemic Index Laboratories
20 Victoria Street, Suite 300
Toronto, Ontario M5C 298 Canada
Phone +1 416 861 0506
Research Manager, Sydney University Glycemic Index Research Service (SUGiRS)
Human Nutrition Unit, School of Molecular and Microbial Biosciences
NSW 2006 Australia
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