Tips for Vegetarian Athletes

healthy vegetarian diet for athletesThe health benefits of following a vegan, or a vegetarian diet are numerous. The diet has been confirmed to lower cholesterol, lower risk of heart disease, lower risk of hypertension, reduce the risk of cancer in addition to many other benefits to the body. But if you're an athlete, does it still make sense to follow a vegan diet?

Yes, and the American Dietetic Association confirms it. Two years ago they released this statement:

" It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life-cycle including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood and adolescence and for athletes."

Eating Well magazine released a list of the six staples a vegetarian diet should include:

  • Healthy oils - Including canola and extra-virgin olive oil, offer heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Some, such as canola oil and flaxseed oil, provide omega-3 fats.

  • Nuts and seeds provide protein and healthy ­unsaturated fats; walnuts and flaxseed provide omega-3 fats.

  • If you start with a vegetarian instead of a vegan diet, you can include eggs and dairy which are good sources of high-quality protein for lacto-ovo-vegetarians. Dairy products, such as milk and yogurt, provide calcium and vitamin D.

  • Legume, including beans, lentils and dried peas as well as soybeans, are the best sources of plant-based protein. Foods made from them (tofu, tempeh, falafel, hummus) are good sources too.

  • Whole grains should have a starring role in any vegetarian diet, as they are excellent sources of carbohydrates.

  • Fruits and vegetables should, of course, be the basis of any vegetarian diet.

Those who are active, need more protein and fat to sustain themselves. Consider adding additional protein from sources such as soy protein powder, unsweetened soy drinks or hemp powder. Healthy fat sources like extra virgin olive oil, hemp seed oil, and avocado, can also be added to your diet.

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