Did you know these facts?

Vegetarian foods are a major source of nutrition for most people in the world.
Vegetarians have lower rates of heart disease and some forms of cancer than non-vegetarians.
Vegetarian diets can be simple and easy to prepare.

What is a vegetarian?

Broadly defined, a vegetarian is a person who does not eat meat, poultry, and fish. Vegetarians eat mainly fruit, vegetables, legumes, grains, seeds, and nuts. Many vegetarians eat eggs and/or dairy products but avoid hidden animal products such as beef and chicken stocks, lard, and gelatin.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) classifies vegetarians more specifically in the following ways:

Vegans or total vegetarians exclude all animal products (e.g. meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, and other dairy products). Many vegans also do not eat honey.
Lactovegetarians exclude meat, poultry, fish, and eggs but include dairy products.
Lacto-ovovegetarians exclude meat, poultry, and fish but include dairy products and eggs. Most vegetarians in the US are lacto-ovovegetarians.

Why are people vegetarians?

People are vegetarians for many reasons, including concern for personal health and the environment, economic and world hunger concerns, compassion for animals, belief in nonviolence, food preferences, or spiritual reasons. People may become vegetarians for one reason, and then later on adopt some of the other reasons as well. Vegetarian diets are somewhat more common among adolescents with eating disorders than in the general population. According to the AND position paper on vegetarian diets, however, “recent data suggest that adopting a vegetarian diet does not lead to eating disorders, rather that vegetarian diets may be selected to camouflage an existing eating disorder.” Be sure you fully understand your own reasons for choosing vegetarianism.

What are the health benefits of a vegetarian diet?

According to the AND, vegetarians are at lower risk for developing:

Heart disease
Colorectal, ovarian, and breast cancers
Diabetes
Obesity
Hypertension (high blood pressure)

This is because a healthy vegetarian diet is typically low in fat and high in fiber. However, even a vegetarian diet can be high in fat if it includes excessive amounts of fatty snack foods, fried foods, whole milk dairy products, and eggs. Therefore, a vegetarian diet, like any healthy diet, must be well planned in order to help prevent and treat certain diseases.
Are there any health risks in becoming a vegetarian?

Some vegetarains and vegans may be deficient in iron, vitamin B-12, vitamin D, calcium, zinc, and occasionally riboflavin.

Do vegetarians get proper nutrition?

The key to any healthy diet is to choose a wide variety of foods, and to consume enough calories to meet your energy needs. It is important for vegetarians to pay attention to these five categories in particular.

Protein

Protein is found in both plant foods and animal foods. Vegetarians should be aware that while there are plenty of plant-based protein options, many of these foods contain less protein per serving compared to animal foods. Therefore, combining one or more protein sources at a meal is helpful. Adequate intake with a wide variety of foods from all food groups should fulfill your protein needs. Good sources of protein include lentils, beans, tofu, soybeans (edamame), soy products (veggie burgers, “chik’n” strips, etc), textured vegetable protein (TVP), low-fat dairy products, nuts, seeds, tempeh, and eggs.

Calcium

The AND recommends that adults 19 to 50-years-old consume at least 1000mg of calcium per day — the equivalent of 3 cups of milk or yogurt. Vegetarians can meet their calcium needs if they consume adequate amounts of low-fat and fat-free dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese. Calcium is also found in many plant foods including dark, leafy greens (e.g. spinach, kale, mustard, collard and turnip greens, and bok choy), broccoli, beans, dried figs, and sunflower seeds, as well as in calcium-fortified cereals, cereal bars and some fortified juices.

Vegans (people who don’t eat any animal products) must strive to meet their daily calcium requirements by regularly including these plant sources of calcium in their diets. Many soy milk products are fortified with calcium, but be sure to check the label for this. Although almond milk may also be calcium-fortified, it is lower in protein so soy milk may be a better alternative to dairy.

Calcium is best absorbed by the body when it comes from food, so it’s best to include calcium-rich foods in your diet on a regular basis. If these foods are not part of your typical diet, then you may consider a calcium supplement. Look for one that has 500 mg calcium or more per serving AND contains vitamin D. It’s important to take this supplement with a meal, rather than on an empty stomach. Calcium supplements are available at the pharmacy in Health Services.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps your body absorb and use calcium. There are few foods that are naturally high in vitamin D, though. Therefore, dairy products in the US are fortified with vitamin D. Many soy milk products are also fortified with vitamin D. Your body can make its own vitamin D, but only when the skin is exposed to adequate sunlight (but that can have its own risks). A person only needs about 10 minutes of sunlight exposure for an adequate dose of vitamin D; then it’s important to apply sunscreen. People who do not consume dairy products and who do not receive direct exposure to sunlight regularly should consider taking supplemental vitamin D. The recommended intake of Vitamin D for college students is 600 international units (IU) per day. Despite research suggesting that higher intakes of vitamin D may be protective against a variety of diseases, intakes above 2000 IU per day can result in vitamin D toxicity. Both multivitamin supplements and calcium supplements with vitamin D are available at the pharmacy in Health Services

Iron

Iron-fortified breads and cereals, dark green vegetables (e.g. spinach and broccoli), dried fruits, prune juice, blackstrap molasses, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and soybean nuts are good plant sources of iron. Consuming foods high in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits or juices, tomatoes, and green peppers helps your body absorb iron from these plant sources. Cooking food in iron pots and pans will also add to your iron intake.

Vitamin B-12

Vitamin B-12 is produced in animals and by bacteria in the soil. Vegetarians who consume dairy products and/or eggs usually get enough B-12 since it is found in these foods. Vegans, however, should add vitamin B-12 fortified soy milk to their diets. Regularly taking a broad-spectrum multivitamin and mineral supplement (available at the pharmacy in Health Services) will also supply the necessary amount of B-12.
What about athletes?

Being both an athlete and a vegetarian can be challenging, especially for vegans. It can be difficult to eat a volume of food high enough to meet an athlete’s high caloric needs. Vegetarians who participate in sports should be aware of their increased energy needs, and should make a concerted effort to consume sufficient calories. Click for info on sports nutrition.

There are many health benefits that are associated with cycling. Let’s look at a few of the major benefits:

Cycling is one of the easiest ways to exercise

You can ride a bicycle almost anywhere, at any time of the year, and without spending a fortune. Many people are put off doing certain sports because of the high level of skill that seems to be required, or perhaps because they can’t commit to a team sport due to time pressures. Most of us know how to cycle and once you have learned you don’t forget. All you need is a bike, a half an hour here or there when it suits, and a bit of confidence.

Cycling builds strength and muscle tone

Contrary to normal perceptions, cycling is not a fitness activity that solely involves the legs. Cycling builds strength in a holistic manner since every single part of the body is involved in cycling.

Cycling increases muscle tone

Cycling improves general muscle function gradually, with little risk of over exercise or strain. Regular cycling strengthens leg muscles and is great for the mobility of hip and knee joints. You will gradually begin to see an improvement in the muscle tone of your legs, thighs, rear end and hips.

Cycling builds stamina

Cycling is a good way to build stamina. It is very effective in doing so,
because people enjoy cycling and they wouldn’t really notice that they have
gone farther the last time they went cycling.

Cycling improves cardio-vascular fitness

Cycling makes the heart pound in a steady manner and helps improve cardio-vascular fitness. Studies have shown that cycling to work will increase cardiovascular fitness by 3-7%. Cycling uses the largest muscle groups the legs, raising heart rate to benefit stamina and fitness.

Cycling eats up calories

Cycling is a good way to lose those unwanted pounds. Steady cycling burns approximately 300 calories per hour. If you cycle for 30 minutes every day you would burn 11 pounds of fat in a year. Since it helps build muscle, cycling will also boost your metabolic rate long after you’ve finished your ride.

Cycling improves heart health

According to the British Medical Association, cycling just 20 miles a week can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by 50%. A major study of 10,000 civil servants suggested that those who cycled 20 miles over the period of a week were half as likely to suffer heart disease as their non-cycling colleagues.

Cycling improves coordination

Cycling is an activity that involves the whole body. Therefore, arm-to-leg, feet-to-hands and body-to-eye coordination are improved.

Cycling reduces stress

Any regular exercise can reduce stress and depression and improve well being and self esteem. Cycling outdoors is also a good way to be one with nature and to feel the breath of the earth. It takes one’s mind out of everyday-life stress and rejuvenates his soul.

When incorporating cycling into an over-all fitness program, there are many aspects to consider. Here are some important things to remember:

Consult your doctor

Most people can do cycling. However, it is still best to consult your doctor when thinking about incorporating a cycling activity into an overall fitness program. They shall advise you regarding your limits and capacities and what you should avoid doing.

Cycling is a base training activity

Let’s say that the doctor says that there is nothing wrong with you engaging into cycling as a part of your overall fitness program, what do you do next? Remember that cycling should be considered as a base training activity. Base training activities are those, which provide endurance and aerobic training at the same time. Re-align your fitness program such that biking becomes the starting activity for the week. Other activities such as circuit training should be done so as to complement the benefits of cycling.

Start slowly and then increase your cycling

For beginners, they should employ a program wherein cycling is done three times a week. Doing it two times a week is also fine, but this depends on the capabilities of the person undergoing the training.

Increase speeds gradually

Gradual increase in speeds is an important aspect of fitness cycling. Cycling can also be strenuous to the body and the key towards successful fitness cycling is to be patient and not hurry in increasing your limits.

Better safe than sorry

Cycling is great fun but it is important to get the right equipment for the activity. Head gear, kneepads, elbow pads should all be in place when cycling. For a comprehensive overview of all this information and more, checkout our 20-minute DVD, GEARED UP! The Essentials of Adult Bicycling available here.

Fitness cycling can really be integrated into any fitness program. With every turn of the wheel, calories are burnt, strength is built and wellness is achieved.