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Vegetarian or vegan?

To eat meat is probably second nature to most, but if you look at the shop shelves you can start to make out that the interest in reducing or removing meats entirely, is increasing. For those that are not used to eating a vegetarian diet (which can mean that you still eat egg or dairy products) or a vegan diet (with foods entirely from the plant kingdom) a number of questions arise:

Is there a risk of protein deficiency if I don't eat meat?
Besides the energy needed by all of us we need certain building blocks in order for our bodies to work. Amino acids, the building blocks in protein, is an example of an energy source a lot of people are worried they will lack if the switch to a vegetarian diet. But there is no need to worry because as long as you are eating a varied diet there is plenty of protein in plant-based foods, especially in legumes.

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Are there any risks eating a vegetarian or vegan diet?
For grown-up, healthy individuals there are no apparent health risks connected with eating plant-based as long as you eat a varied diet. If you are eating a vegan diet you can however have trouble getting enough B12 and iron which are both needed for creating blood and transporting oxygen in our blood stream. 

People with high energy consumption, f.ex. children, growing teenagers and athletes, can have a hard time consuming enough energy if certain foods are eliminated. If you are not suffering from obesity this is not to be recommended. If you still want to try to eat vegetarian it could be wise to seek professional help composing your diet in a well-balanced way.

Are there any benefits of eating vegetarian or vegan? 
To eat large amounts of fruits and vegetables is often better both for your wallet and the environment along with the fact that you will be getting a lot of vitamins, minerals and fibres. According to the Nordic Health Recommendations (NNR) a grown human should eat about 500g fruits and vegetables every day, and it is safe to say that most people do not reach this goal.

Tips if you want to eat vegetarian:

  • Weigh 500g of vegetables on a kitchen scale to see how much is recommended per day.

  • If vegetarian food is new to you - choose a weekday or a whole week and challenge a friend/colleague/family member to exchange meat, poultry or fish at least three times.

  • Treat a friend who is not convinced to an entirely vegetarian meal to prove to him/her that it can be just as good as any other meal.

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About the authors Jessica & Maria

Challengize health tips are written for us by Jessica Norrbom and Maria Ahlsén, both with PHDs in medicine. Since 2013 they run their own business Fortasana working mainly with diet, training and health from a scientific perspective. Maria and Jessica have written several books and regularly lecture focusing mainly on popular health myths and explain what is actually true from a scientific perspective when it comes to diets, trends and newspaper headlines.

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