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Vegetarian diet

I am making an effort to eat only plant based food. My primary care physician advised me that I also needed protein. So I have been eating Red Kidney Beans and a quarter-can of Alaskan canned salmon every day. A friend of mine advised me that I may be eating too much salmon because it contains iron. Is this “adviser” correct?

Answer:

Hi, your friend is half right! The issue is that salmon along with many other fish can contain various heavy metals, in particular Methylmercury. Methylmercury is toxic organic form of mercury that can be found in seawater, it is absorbed by algae which is in turn eaten by small sea life, which in turn is eaten by small fish, the small fish eaten by large fish and so on. Eventually this ends up on our dinner plate in the fish we eat. It is not easily processed by our own bodies and therefore we need to restrict our consumption. The benefits of eating oily fish are considered to outweigh the risks of the mercury, canned salmon is low on the scale of contamination. There are a few different recommendations out there, but the general rule is that you should aim for two to three 3.5oz servings per week of fish with the lowest level of mercury. I would suggest reducing your consumption to every other day or Mon/Wed/Fri.

Vegetarianism & Broken Bones

I have never broken a bone before in my life. Two years ago, I decided to become a vegetarian. I’m very active–in the gym, playing soccer, running–and recently broke my fibula playing soccer. Family members kept telling me that my diet is weakening my bones (lack of amino acids, regular protein, etc.). Are they right? Does a vegetarian diet put you at risk for things like osteoporosis and broken bones?

Answer:

Currently there is conflicting evidence whether vegetarian diets can lead to lower bone mineral density. Some studies have suggested vegetarians are at higher risk than meat eaters, whilst other studies say the opposite. What has been shown is that people who consume large amounts of protein are actually at a higher risk of osteoporosis than others. Consuming large amounts of protein can result in a more acidic blood PH, and the calcium in the bone is often used as a buffering agent to normalise blood PH. Consuming sufficient Calcium and Vitamin D is more important as vegetarians can be deficient in these two nutrients. It is worthwhile making sure you do plan your diet to include these nutrients, as the bulk of scientific research shows that these are important factors in bone development. Other important factors for building strong bones, are engaging in weight bearing exercise, avoiding alcohol, soft drinks and not smoking, all of which you already do. Overall I think that you are following a healthier lifestyle than most, and with that the overall health of your bones is likely to be better than most. Sports injuries occur to the best of athletes, and realistically I think you can put your injury down to bad luck, rather than your diet choice.

Vegetarianism?

I’m sixteen, a female, and have been eating meat since I was old enough. I’ve been trying to loose weight(exercising and eating healthier) and have lost twenty five pounds successfully. I now weigh 165. I’ve been giving it some thought and I think I’d like to become a vegetarian, specifically one that does not eat meat, poultry, nor fish. Just how bad is meat for you? Will I become healthier this way? Would I need to take supplements? Thanks! Any info is appreciated!

Answer:

At sixteen I would personally not recommend that you follow a vegetarian, pescatarian or vegan diet. Your body is still developing and growing and needs adequate calories and nutrition. Whilst a vegetarian diet does have many health benefits, many people are not able to put together a balanced diet without careful planning. Making sure you get adequate protein is the most important part of a vegetarian diet, supplements should not be necessary. I would suggest that if you can follow your current diet for a couple more years and then consider perhaps moving to a vegetarian diet in your late teens, early twenties. In the long term studies have shown vegetarians live longer and better overall health.