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Making vegetarian diets nutritious

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Eleanor R. Williams - The American Journal of Nursing (1975) Tags: nutrition
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    Making Vegetarian Diets Nutritious Author(s): Eleanor R. Williams Source: The American Journal of Nursing, Vol. 75, No. 12 (Dec., 1975), pp. 2168-2173Published by: Lippincott Williams & WilkinsStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3423700Accessed: 03-03-2015 22:27 UTC

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  • Making Vegetarian Diets


    Their diets can be adequate, palatable, and appealing to the eye, but vegetarians need considerable information to choose foods that provide the essential amino acids, vitamin B12, and other nutrients.


    Health professionals are encountering more and more vegetarians. In the past, most vegetarians in the United States belonged to religious groups. Today, however, many young people, often living in communes, have adopted vegetarianism as part of a life philosophy(1-3). Other people have adopted vegetarianism because they believe the United States and other af- fluent countries consume a dispropor- tionate share of the earth's resources to produce a high meat diet(4,5).

    Most vegetarians believe that their dietary practices are more healthful than eating large amounts of meat. There is some support in the scientific literature for this belief. Vegetarians

    ELEANOR R. WILLIAMS, PH.D., R.D., is associate professor, Department of Food, Nutrition, and Institutional Administration, College of Human Ecology, University of Maryland, College Park.

    have been shown to have lower blood cholesterol levels than nonvegetarians, and the incidence of heart disease among Seventh Day Adventist males has been reported to be 40 percent less than that of the average male popu- lation in California(6-9).

    Part of this cholesterol-lowering ef- fect may be due to vegetarians' ten- dency to consume less total fat, less saturated fat, more polyunsaturated fat, and less cholesterol than nonvege- tarians(10). But vegetarians may also consume much more fiber or roughage than nonvegetarians(11,12). The feed- ing of legumes, which are high in fiber content, has lowered blood cholesterol levels in controlled studies(13,14).

    Vegetarians have also been reported to experience a decreased incidence of cancer compared with nonvegeta- rians(15). A current question is whether the higher incidence of cancer of the colon in industrialized countries is related to the high fat intake (as in meat) or to the low fiber intake(16).

    Often, nurses can help patients se- lect more nearly adequate diets. Be- cause vegetarians' dietary practices vary widely, the nurse should find out exactly what foods a patient chooses. She also needs to know the reasons for certain food choices so that she can judge what alternatives are possible.

    Food choices are highly personal, and criticism of a patient's food habits may be taken as criticism of the per- son. The nurse is in a good position to

    help, if she is perceived as a nonjudg- mental person who is knowledgeable about food and nutrition or is able to get expert help for the patient from a qualified dietitian or nutritionist.

    Vegetarians may be classified as those who avoid red meat only (beef, pork, or lamb) but eat poultry and fish; lacto-ovo-vegetarians, who avoid flesh foods but consume milk, cheese, and eggs; and strict or pure vegetar- ians, or vegans, who avoid all foods of animal origin.

    Planning a nutritionally adequate diet is more difficult as food choices become more restrictive. Thus, the strict vegetarian diet, although the most restrictive, can be nutritionally adequate, but a greater knowledge of food composition is necessary to choose foods that contain the needed nutrients. Ill-planned vegetarian diets have caused severe deficiencies(1,17).

    The basic principles of planning any nutritionally adequate diet follow, and are applied to vegetarian diets with special attention to strict vegetarian diets.

    Calories and Protein CALORIE intake should be adequate to maintain ideal body weight. "Ideal body weight" is that weight for height and sex at which neither too little nor too much body fat is present. This weight can be determined for patients by reference to standard weight tables and by using skin calipers to obtain the


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  • appropriate skinfold measurements. Once ideal weight is attained, the

    calorie intake must be adequate to maintain it, because this allows the body to use dietary protein for its unique function of building body pro- teins. If the calorie intake is too low, the body is forced to use much of the dietary protein for energy.

    PROTEIN in the diet should supply all of the amino acids needed. Amino acids are basic units containing nitro- gen needed to synthesize body pro- teins. The human adult can manufac- ture all except eight of these amino acids, called the essential amino acids. These eight must be obtained from food. The body also requires some ad- ditional sources of nitrogen to synthe- size the nonessential amino acids.

    Meat and other animal protein foods (eggs, milk, and cheese) contain all the essential amino acids in amounts and proportions to one an- other similar to those found in body proteins. Plant proteins, on the other hand, tend to be lacking or low in one or more of the essential amino acids relative to the body's need for them.

    Two or more plant protein sources can be combined, however, in such a way that the amino acids low in one source are supplied by the second or third source. Alternatively, a plant food may be combined with an animal food to obtain a complete amino acid mixture.

    This practice of combining foods is referred to as the mutual supplemen- tation of dietary proteins, or the com- plementary value of proteins. For ex- ample, wheat tends to be low in lysine and high in methionine relative to the body's needs, while beans tend to be high in lysine and low in methionine. Combining wheat and beans in one dish or one meal supplies both lysine and methionine. Lapp6 offers a guide to complementing proteins in Diet for a Small Planet(4).

    Over centuries, human beings have survived, having learned to success- fully complement or supplement one protein with another. The corn or rice and bean dishes of Latin American countries, and the garbanzo bean- sesame seed dishes of Middle Eastern



    calciuma irona zinca food mg. mg. mg. animal hamburger, lean, 3 oz. 10 3.0 3.8

    protein liver, beef, 2 oz. 6 5.0 2.9 foods milk, fluid whole, 1 c. 288 0.1 0.9

    milk, non-fat dry, 1/4 c. 219 0.1 0.8 cheese, cheddar, 1 oz. 213 0.3 0.5 cheese, cottage, 1/2 c. packed 115 0.3

    beans navy beans, 1/ c. cooked 48 2.5 0.9 seeds mature soybeans, 1/2 c. cooked 37 1.3 - nuts sesame seeds, whole, 1/2 c. 1,160 10.5 -

    sesame seeds, hulled, 1/2 c. 110 2.4 - sunflower seed kernels, 1/4 c. 36 2.1 - almonds, 1/2 c. 166 3.3

    - soybean milk, 1 c. 60 1.5- vegetables spinach, 1/2c. cooked *2.0 0.8

    beet greens, 1/2c. cooked 1.4 - dandelion greens, 1/2 c. cooked 126 1.6 - kale, 1/2 c. cooked 74 0.6 - mustard greens, 1/2 c. cooked 97 1.3 - turnip greens, 1/2 c. cooked 126 0.8 - collards, 1/2 c. cooked 144 0.6 - broccoli, 1/2 c. cooked 68 0.6 - green peas, 1/2 c. cooked 19 1.5 - sweet potatoes, 1 sm. (110 Gm.) 44 1.0 -

    dried dried apricots, 1/4 c. uncooked 25 2.0 - fruits dried figs, 1 large, uncooked 26 0.6


    prunes, 4 uncooked 14 1.1 -

    raisins, 1/2 oz. (11/2 Tbs.) 9 0.5 - cereals rice, brown, 2 c. cooked 7 0.3 1.1 breads oatmeal, 1 c. cooked 22 1.4 1.2

    oatmeal, dry, 1/4 c. (18 Gm.) 10 0.8 0.7 wheat bran flakes, 40%, 1 oz. 21 1.3 1.0 wheat germ, 1/4 c. 18 2.4 3.6 white bread, enriched, 1 sI. 21 0.6 0.2 whole wheat bread, 1 sI. 25 0.8 0.5

    a RDA for adult male or female for calcium-800 mg. RDA for adult male for iron-10 mg.; for adult female-18 mg. RDA for adult male or female for zinc-15 mg.

    * calcium in spinach and beet greens is present as insoluble calcium oxalate and cannot be absorbed.

    - indicates values not reported. Values for calcium and iron calculated from US. Dept. of Agriculture Handbook No. 8, Composition of Foods, and U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Home and Garden Bulletin No. 72, Nutritive Value of Foods. Values for soybean milk obtained from REGISTER, U. D., AND SONNENBERG, L. M., "The Vegetarian Diet"

    Equivalents of hamburger, liver, and beef are shown for contrast in this list of vegetarian mineral sources.

    VOLUME 75, NUMBER 12 DECEMBER 1975 2169

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    Whole White White Wheat Loss in Element Wheat Flour Bread Germ Flour, % percent of wheat 100. 72. - 2.5 28.0 ash, % 1.96 0.

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