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A Dietary Balancing Act

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A dietary balancing act

TO MAKE sure my meat-free diet was properly balanced, I consulted nutritionist Catherine Saxelby. She quizzed me to ensure I was preparing food made from whole grains such as brown rice and barley and acknowledging the rise of quinoa, freekeh (smoked cracked wheat) and farro.
I explained I was still eating a small amount of cheese and a few eggs. "Whole grains plus legumes such as chickpeas, lentils and beans plus the small amount of cheese and eggs will look after your protein," she said. "But there are a lot of nutrients in meat and fish that are more difficult to get from a vegetarian diet. What you may run short of are iron and zinc."
Iron is found in whole grains and leafy greens but is not readily available to the body. Saxelby says it is more accessible when eaten with vitamin C - a lemon juice-based dressing is perfect, she says. Zinc, which is essential for the health of our immune systems and sense of smell, is best absorbed from fish and seafood such as oysters, red meat and chicken. It is also found in grains and vegetables.
"Vitamin B12, essential for prevention of anaemia, is basically found in red meat and some in eggs," Saxelby says. "But there is evidence that mushrooms can provide vitamin B12."
She also suggested a diet rich in flax seed, walnuts and canola oil for plant-based Omega 3.
She recommends anyone adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet consult an accredited dietitian. And her final advice? "Watch out for bacon. That is the one thing that unsticks so many people trying to give up meat." Yes indeed - it's that aroma.

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