Vegetarian Perspectives

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Have you ever thought about going vegetarian? Don’t understand why someone would choose this lifestyle? Here are some perspectives on the matter…

Enza Ward: Registered Holistic Nutritionist

Enza Ward is the creator of Senzable Health. She is a Natural Health Coach, Educator and Wellness Speaker who is very passionate about healthy food and holistic living. Though she does eat meat and doesn’t consider herself a vegetarian, she tries to eat exclusively organic meat and limits her meat intake.

This is something that Holistic Nutritionist, Stacey Deering agrees with and also emphasizes that you must know where your food comes from.

“Yes I do believe meat is healthy if you know where it comes from. I suggest grass-fed, grass-finished meat that has been raised in a sustainable environment. I do not believe in meat that has been treated with antibiotics or hormones,” Deering says. “Free range chicken or turkey versus caged. Organic, free range eggs versus free run or conventional. Wild caught fish and seafood versus farmed. Know the source, get to know your farmer, make sure they have been humanely raised and fed a natural diet.”

As  a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Enza Ward, explains some of the reasons why people may choose to eat meat and some of the reasons why people may choose not to.

Replacing unhealthy food with healthy food

Ward has a passion for learning all about food and how eating nutrient-rich food can help you feel better.

“The food we eat ultimately builds are body, our organs, our skin, our tissue, by doing that it also impacts our thoughts and the energy that we have,” Ward says.

Being a nutritionist, Ward knows the controversies around eating meat.

“Red meat and meat in general is one of the most controversial foods in the history of nutrition,” Ward says. “Some of these controversies involve health, the environment and livestock industries creating greenhouse gases, compassion for animals and how they are treated, religious beliefs and the dislike of meat.”

Ward also shared how there has been observational studies done that show a correlation between eating meat and certain diseases.

“The effects of red meat on health have been intensively studied and several observational studies show that red meat eaters may be at a higher risk of heart disease and cancer, among other diseases,” Ward says.

Supplementing your diet when you choose to eat a vegetarian diet can be intimidating at first. But doing a little research into what to supplement and where can go a long way.

“The key to a healthy vegetarian diet is to enjoy a variety of foods,” Ward says. “A little planning can go a long way.”

Some of the things that Ward says to pay special attention to are protein, vitamin B-12, omega 3 fatty acids, iron, iodine and calcium.

“You can get a sufficient amount of protein from plant-based foods,” Ward says. “So legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds and sprouted whole grains or super foods like chia seeds, hemp seeds, and Spirulina are all good ways to make sure you are meeting your protein needs.”

For vegetarians who don’t eat fish Ward says, “you may want to consider fortified products or supplements or both. [But] diet-wise, walnuts, ground flaxseeds and hemp seeds are good sources of essential fatty acids.”

Ward explains that iron is a crucial component of red blood cells and says, “dried beans and peas, lentils, sprouted whole grain products, dark leafy green vegetables and dried fruit are good sources. To help your body better absorb this iron, eat foods rich in vitamin C, such as strawberries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, cabbage and broccoli at the same time as you’re eating iron-containing food.”

To help your body with iodine, which Ward says is “a component in thyroid hormones, which helps regulate metabolism, growth and function of key organs, include seaweed products like dulse, kelp and wakame in your diet.”

And to ensure enough calcium intake Ward says to “look for dark green vegetables such as kale, turnip and collard green and broccoli. Organic tofu and tempeh are other options.”

Brittany: Vegetarian for health reasons

Vegetarianism has been a journey for Brittany Andrejcin. The 23-year-old became vegan in 2012 after watching a documentary called Forks Over Knives. She decided she wanted to make a healthy change in her life. Andrejcin is now a pescetarian and cannot fathom the thought of eating meat.

“Growing up I never really liked meat,” she says. “I always toyed with the idea of going vegetarian but I never felt like my parents took me seriously.”

When her dad died of cancer, this really started to trigger her desire for knowledge about food. She says she discovered that cancer thrives in an acidic state and she began to do more research and became more aware of foods she was eating. “I thought cutting meat out was a good step towards doing that,” she says.

The health impacts of meat are something that Holistic Nutritionist Enza Ward explains as to why someone might cut meat from their diet.

“The effects of red meat on health have been intensively studied and several observational studies show that red meat eaters may be at a higher risk of heart disease and cancer, among other diseases,” Ward says.

Andrejcin says she was vegan for a couple of months but had to scale back to being a pescetarian because she got really sick. “I found that being vegan was especially hard,” she says. “The time and accessibility of the food was the hardest.”

Andrejcin says she has to go out of her way a lot of times in Calgary to find foods that fit her diet. She says there are other places she has been where foods for the vegetarian/holistic diet are more accessible.

Protein in the diet

For protein, Andrejcin says it isn’t hard in a vegetarian diet as it can be found in a lot of plant-based foods such as green leafy vegetables, seeds and beans or legumes.

Holistic Nutritionist Stacey Deering says balance is important in the vegetarian diet.

“Most importantly in a vegetarian diet, balancing macronutrients and making sure the diet contains sources of protein with all amino acids,” she explains. “I recommend getting a variety of protein through plant foods such as quinoa, lentils, beans and legumes as well as eggs, nuts and seeds. Protein is found in many plant sources. I recommend avoiding processed or refined carbohydrates and sugar for any diet.”

Best places to shop and eat

Andrejcin shops at Community Natural Foods and Okotoks Natural Foods in particular but says she can sometimes find some things at Wal Mart, Superstore or Safeway.  She says The Coup is one of the only restaurants that has everything that fits her diet if she wants to go out for dinner.

“It would be nice to see more options in popular restaurants and it would be nice to see [health stores] open in all quadrants of the city.”

She says the diet was “a bit of a learning curve at first” and she had to adjust her meal planning to be geared more towards the diet but says she had fun trying new things out.

“Because I did the diet for health reasons, I try to find things that are completely organic and not processed,” Andrejcin says.

She steers clear of frozen or processed foods and opts for more freshly made foods as much as possible.

Holistic Nutritionist Stacey Deering says this is the best way to approach the vegetarian diet.

“The best foods come from the earth, are minimally processed and are as fresh as possible. Real food, local and organic when possible,” Deering explains. “A diet high in plant based foods that comes from the earth, like fruit, vegetables,pseudo-grains, nuts and seeds along with some legumes and beans. Super foods such as bee pollen and spirulina are loaded with essential amino acids and can be helpful for increasing nutrition.”

Now Andrejcin still maintains her meat-free diet, while including some fish. Most of her nutrition comes from plants. She does say, however, she wants to go completely dairy -free but says that cheese is something that is hard for her to give up.

Robin: Committing to vegetarianism

Robin Brandt is a vegetarian and has fully committed herself to eating healthier for the past three years. Prior to this commitment, and throughout her life, she had gone back and forth with this lifestyle.

One of the biggest reasons why Brandt is a strict vegetarian is because of her lack of trust in the agriculture business.

“As far as the meat processing plants go, [I don’t trust] that the products are safe to eat anymore, [for an example] with the whole beef crisis out in Brooks,” Brandt says. “And that’s the same with dairy, beef, chicken, turkey or pork. I don’t feel quite the same with fish, sometimes I will have a little bit of salmon.”

Brandt grew up on a farm of where she and her sister helped raise two or three dozen chickens that were bound for slaughter.

“My dad would put their head in between two nails that were pounded into a stump [and] he would chop their head off with an ax,” Brandt says. “They would flop around and they usually did backflips for a little bit until they were dead.”

“As a kid, it never really bothered me. But when I think of it now, it makes me repulsed.”

Another big reason for Brandt’s vegetarian lifestyle is her love for animals.

“I was holding a budgie at Petland and I was thinking ‘how did I kill chickens because it’s the same thing, Brandt says. “It didn’t bother me then, but now if I had to do that, there would be no way.”

As a former paramedic, Brandt spent two years studying pre-medicine, which involved learning about anatomy. This is why seeing a steak on a plate bothers her.

“When I see a steak I don’t call it a steak, I call it a piece of quadriceps muscle,” Brandt says. “I look at animals the same way as us. I don’t see it as a piece of meat, I see it as a muscle on a body, it doesn’t look any different to me.”

“The more medical training I got the less I wanted to eat meat.”

Brandt has also experienced health benefits such as having lower cholesterol.

“At 40 years old I should have started medication because my cholesterol was high. And since I haven’t been eating animal fat my cholesterol is lower than normal,” Brandt says.

Brandt remembers eating meat but not because she enjoyed the taste of meat, it was because she wanted the protein.

“Whenever I ate a piece of chicken or something with a bone in it I hated eating it, but I felt like I had to eat it to get the protein,” Brandt says. “I never enjoyed cutting into a steak and eating it. It was only out of the feeling that I had to.”

Now that Brandt is vegetarian, she enjoys her meals to the fullest.

“I eat a lot of raw fruits and vegetables and I love the taste of them,” Brandt says. “I can actually sit down and eat a meal and enjoy every single bite of it and not feel any guilt or any repulsion.”

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