The health benefits of plant-based diets are well reported, but there are also other advantages for increasing the amount of vegetables you eat. Hugely versatile, vegetables go well with pastas and starches and can even be used as the basis of a whole meal.
Eating fewer animal products allows you to experience more energizing, satisfying vegetarian meals, and is also a good way to expand your repertoire of great-tasting dishes by trying new ingredients! It doesn’t have to be a substitution to make every day; just an increase in vegetarian dishes in your diet and a reduction of meat intake generally across each week could be the way forward. Here are our six reasons for giving it a go:
- Health-wise, a greater consumption of vegetables is a huge bonus, as they are full of goodness and eating more of them will give your body more of the things that it needs to function well. Vegetables provide essential nutrients such as vitamins A, B and C, and minerals such as iron and calcium, as well as being low in saturated fat (improves cardiovascular health) and excellent sources of fibre (ideal for intestinal health).
- You'll learn more about food and what’s going into your body. Having to replace meat in your diet if you eat meat regularly will make you more aware of healthy ingredients and the range of plant-based items that can act as good substitutes. For example, one of the most advantageous qualities of meat is its high level of protein, although for vegetarian dishes it’s useful to know that lentils, beans, nuts, eggs and soy products are all good sources of protein and can be combined to great effect. Ensuring your calcium intake doesn’t drop too much is important – this is best found in dairy products but exists in leafy greens and broccoli too. It’s also a good idea to keep track of Vitamin D intake, which aids absorption of calcium.
- Quite simply, it tastes good. Vegetables are the most colourful and flavoursome components of a meal, and they also incredibly versatile. It’s a great opportunity to get more creative with your dishes: using a wide range of vegetables in a variety of combinations and styles is an exciting way to produce tasty meals.
- Keeping your diet balanced and varied is vital, and opting for more vegetarian meals will encourage you to try different ingredients and get the most out of them. There’s a huge range of vegetables on offer, and you’ll probably find yourself sampling the benefits of more nuts and pulses (examples include kidney beans, borlotti, cannellini, butter, flageolet beans, split peas and lentils) and trying exotic vegetables like chayote.
- There are a number of ethical, environmental and economic concerns related to meat production. The amount of livestock needed to cater for the current demand is extensive and is an inefficient drain on the earth’s resources. Cutting down the amount of meat you eat helps free up some of these resources. The poor conditions that animals are often kept in are also a significant incentive for vegetarian-based diets.
- Meat can often be the most expensive part of a shopping trip. That means that the savvy shopper should be saving money on their supermarket visits if this is cut directly out of the budget. Even if you want to buy more things to compensate for the missing meat, this will leave you with some extra cash to bulk out the rest of your list with an interesting array of green goodies as vegetables on their own rarely compare to the prices of quality meat. Not too bad, eh? Either save money, or get more bang for your buck. Simple.
If you’d like some tips on producing delicious, healthy vegetarian dishes, you need look no further than the quick and easy, proven recipes in our book, Vegetarian (ISBN: 9781783612260). The book combines classic and innovative recipes, with everything from an Okra Moru Curry to a Parsnip Tatin. It covers starters and sides, soups and stews, pastas, pies, pastries, rice, curries, stir-fries, noodles, and also a fantastic range of unique salads, including the revitalizing Bulgur Wheat Salad with minty Lemon Dressing. Take a look at what’s on offer here.