Vegetarian and Vegan at Queen’s University
The interest in becoming vegan or vegetarian is on the rise! Many people choose to become vegan for a variety of reasons including religious, ethical, environmental, and health reasons to name a few. Before we dive in to the details, let’s start by exploring the different types of vegetarian diets.
Vegetarian: may or may not include eggs or dairy
Pescatarian: includes fish, eggs and dairy
Lacto-Ovo vegetarian: includes eggs and dairy
Lacto Vegetarian: includes dairy but not eggs
Ovo-Vegetarian: includes eggs but not dairy
Vegan: excludes all animal derived foods including eggs, dairy and generally honey.
A well-balanced vegetarian or vegan diet can meet all your nutrition needs as an adult. In fact, each of these diets have health benefits associated with them if followed correctly, including lower rates of:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- Blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Certain types of cancer
However, choosing to be vegetarian or vegan is hard to implement overnight. Moving to a plant based diet takes planning and education to avoid health problems! Nutrients to pay special attention to include: protein, iron, B12, omega 3, vitamin D, calcium and zinc. This is especially true for vegans. Let’s look at each of these more closely.
Protein: Essential for your muscles and red blood cells. No need to pair or combine proteins at each meal – merely aim for a variety of protein rich plant based foods throughout the day to meet the recommended intakes.
Sources: beans and legumes, soy products, meat analogs (Textured Vegetable Protein), nuts and seeds
Iron: Carries oxygen throughout our body. Your brain needs oxygen to study!
Sources: Soy/tofu products, meat alternatives, beans and lentils, fortified grains (bread, cereal, pasta), nuts and seeds, cooked spinach/kale
Did you know?
- Vitamin C consumed with meals can increase absorption of iron
- Sources: Potatoes, broccoli, green peppers and citrus fruits like oranges or grapefruit
- Tannins in tea and coffee inhibit iron absorption
- Aim to drink tea and coffee one hour before or after your meal
- Calcium supplements inhibit iron absorption – avoid taking these supplements at your meals
Vitamin B12: Has a big job of making red blood cells and maintaining the nervous system. Deficiency can lead to fatigue, tingling in fingers/toes, poor cognition and poor digestion. However, plant based foods do not contain Vitamin B12. Therefore, it is essential that all vegans regularly consume vitamin B12 fortified foods or take a supplement.
Sources: fortified breakfast cereals, soy milk or soy powders, nutritional yeast, meat alternatives (textured vegetable protein, veggie burgers or meatless chicken or meatballs), eggs, fish
Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Needed for good eye /nerve/ brain health and protection against disease. Aim for 2 servings each day.
Sources: Ground flaxseed, soybeans, tofu, walnuts, canola oil
Calcium: Required for healthy bone growth and the contraction of muscles like your heart.
Aim for at least 8 servings per day. Caffeine can inhibit calcium absorption and salt can increase calcium excretion.
Sources: fortified foods (soy milk, orange juice), tofu, almonds, sesame seeds, bok choy, tahini, figs, white beans
Vitamin D: Helps bones absorb calcium & influences your immune system. Although obtained from sunlight exposure, this of course varies by time of day, season, air pollution, sun screen use, layers of clothing and age. Be sure to increase your vitamin D food sources in the winter months or take a supplement.
Fortified Sources: soy milk, orange juice, breakfast cereals, margarine
Zinc: Important for growth / development, wound healing, healthy skin and your immune system.
Sources: Legumes, grains, nuts, seeds, soy products such as tofu, tempeh, soy milk, soy yogurt and cheese
Did you know Queen’s Hospitality Services offers a wide variety of vegan and vegetarian options in all three dining halls and retail locations on campus? Look for the symbols below!
For a list of vegan offerings around campus, check out: https://dining.queensu.ca/vegan-options/
If properly planned, a vegan and vegetarian diet can be nutritious, safe and healthy.