I try and have at least 2-3 dinners each week which are vegetarian (and with the left overs, it usually means I also end up having quite a few vegetarian lunches as well).
Your dietary protein sources can have a huge impact on your health and whilst I would struggle with being 100% vegetarian (and I’m pretty much against being vegan – but this is a discussion for another day), I do make sure that I eat a variety of different protein sources including fish, chicken, eggs, and plant-based proteins (including legumes), as well as red meat on occasion. Apart from being good for your health, eating more vego meals is better for your grocery bill, too! Meat is expensive, especially if you’re trying to source good quality.
Now I’m also a huge fan of legumes and I make sure that I eat beans or lentils a few times a week. In fact, I love them so much that this was one thing I really struggled with giving up when I decided to go strict paleo during my former, crossfit glory days! Needless to say, I ate beans and never made it to the games ;-)
Beans are fabulous for your bowels and the types of fibre in them are metabolised by the good bacteria in the gut to produce substances called, short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). These SCFAs are protective on the lining of the bowel and reduce the risk of colon cancer.
Eating too much red meat may increase your breast cancer risk.
A prospective cohort study based on the data taken from the Nurses' Health Study II, where 88 803 pre-menopausal women completed a diet questionnaire in 1991, found that there 2830 cases of breast cancer during 20 years of follow up.
The results indicated that higher intake of total red meat was associated with an increased risk of breast cancer overall, whilst higher intakes of poultry, fish, eggs, legumes, and nuts were not related to breast cancer overall.
Effects of exchanging different proteins:
- Substituting one serving/day of legumes for one serving/day of red meat was associated with a 15% lower risk in all women.
- Substituting one serving/day of poultry for one serving/day of red meat was associated with a 17% lower risk of breast cancer overall, and a 24% lower risk of postmenopausal breast cancer.
- Substituting one serving/day of combined legumes, nuts, poultry, and fish for one serving/day of red meat was associated with a 14% lower risk of breast cancer overall, and pre-menopausal breast cancer.
The study concluded that higher red meat intake in early adulthood may be a risk factor for breast cancer, and replacing meat with a combination of legumes, poultry, nuts and fish may reduce breast cancer risk.
So the message is to ensure that as women, we consume a variety of protein sources every day.
My suggestions would be:
- Plan to have 2-3 meat-free days each week.
- If you are having red meat for dinner, why not opt for a vegetarian lunch?
- Combine different protein sources in meals. For example, you could have chicken, bean and vegetable soup, or eggs and baked beans.
- Make sure when you do have meat (this goes for poultry and fish too), try and buy the best quality you can afford - free range at the least, but ideally organic.
- If you can’t afford to have organic meat every day, all the more reason to eat meat less often and have more legumes and plant-based proteins.
I was given a few home-grown long eggplants and decided to throw a quick, easy curry together. I must admit I don’t use eggplant often, but I thought it would go well here.
Simple Vegetarian Curry
- 2 long eggplants diced into small cubes
- 1 can chickpeas
- 2 handfuls green beans
- 1 can coconut milk
- 1 can diced tomatoes (or 2 really ripe, fresh tomatoes)
- 1 onion
- 4 large garlic cloves
- 1 Tbsp ground turmeric
- 1 Tbsp fresh ginger finely chopped
- 1 tspn ground coriander
- 2 tspn ground cumin
- Generous grinding of Himalayan salt and pepper
- 4 Tbsp Coconut oil
- Optional: dried chilli flakes or fresh chilli if you like things hot!
1. Heat the coconut oil in a wok or pot, add onion, garlic, ginger and spices. Cook till the onion is softened.
2. Add the eggplant and coat in the oniony, oily, spicy mix.
3. Pour in the canned tomatoes and coconut cream, add the chickpeas and let simmer until the eggplant is softened (approx. 20 minutes).
4. Pop the green beans in towards the end. They only need a few minutes in the sauce as you want them to still be a bit crunchy.
5. Serve with black rice, fresh coriander and natural yogurt if you wish.
Tip: You can literally makes this with any vegetables of your choice, and substitute the chickpeas for any other beans or lentils. Sweet potato, carrot, chickpeas and broccoli would be a delicious combination!!! Just remember to adjust your cooking times based on the vegetables you are using.