Martha Jefferson Monday: What you Need to Know About Eating Veg - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Martha Jefferson Monday: What you Need to Know About Eating Vegetarian

If becoming a vegetarian has crossed your mind, dietitians say there's no denying there are health benefits.

"We know that it can lower cholesterol levels, and it reduces inflammation in the arteries, so that reduces your cardiovascular risk," said Rita Smith, MS, RD, CDE. "We also know that eating vegetarian can lower blood pressure in some people, and that reduces your stroke and cardiovascular risk too."

But if you make the switch, it's still important to make sure you're eating a balanced meal.

"You still need a really healthy, varied diet. That means including fruits and vegetables, grains and healthy fats in each meal, but now, instead of having animal protein, you're going to put some other sources of protein in the diet."

Some good plant based proteins include nuts and nut butters, grain like quinoa, dried beans and dried peas and soy products such as tofu, tempeh and edamame.

"When you make your chili, you might use the veggie crumbles from soy instead of ground beef, along with beans. If you're going to make a wrap, instead of having some grilled chicken, or fish in there, you would double up your beans, and maybe add some rice or corn to it to get a complete protein," noted Smith.

Additionally, Smith says making the switch gradually can also help.

"If you're thinking about making a switch to vegetarian, especially if you have a family, it's nice to maybe do 1-2 meals a week and not just go cold turkey off of meat. It helps to maybe transition in that direction."

For more information on this topic, call Health Connection at (434) 654-7009.

If you have a health question you'd like us to answer email healthquestions@nbc29.com.

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