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7 Vegetarian-Friendly Foods You Will Love

Arash Zandi |
October 1, 2013 | 6:35 p.m. PDT

Executive Producer

An assortment of vegetarian foods (Wikimedia Commons)
An assortment of vegetarian foods (Wikimedia Commons)
To start the month of October off right, World Vegetarian Day was established. It's a day of celebration that was created by the North American Vegetarian Society in 1977 and endorsed by the International Vegetarian Union in 1978. The day's purpose is to "promote the joy, compassion and life-enhancing possibilities of vegetarianism. It brings to light the ethical, environmental, health and humanitarian benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle. In honor of World Vegetarian Day, here are 7 foods that are vegetarian-friendly that you will love:

1. Tofu: It's a great source of protein, zinc, iron and even has some Omega-3 fatty acids. Tofu also gives you 100 mg (milligrams) of calcium per half cup. Tofu can be substituted for the same amount of meat, poultry or fish in almost any recipe. You want to use firm tofu for this, as it will hold its shape when you sauté or grill it.

2. Lentils: Like beans, lentils are legumes, and are an excellent source of soluble fiber and protein. However, lentils are superior to beans in that they have twice as much iron, higher in most B vitamins and folate, which is really good for childbearing women as folate can reduce the risk for some birth defects. For those who are new to vegetarianism, lentils are the perfect way to start eating more legumes, as they make you feel less "gassy" than other legumes. Use lentils in soup, vegetable stews, casseroles or chilis. Cook them with carrots or in a curry!

3. Nuts: These high-protein goodies are perfect for snacks. Peanuts, walnuts, almonds, cashews, pecans, macadamias and Brazil nuts are high in zinc, vitamin E and Omega-3 fatty acids. Some nuts, such as almonds, can even provide a good amount of calcium. Here's great news for those who want to be slimmer: Recent studies conducted at Loma Linda University and Purdue University have shown that people who have a nut-rich diet weigh less, even though they are high in calories, such is the magic of nuts!

4. Grains: Some enriched whole-grain cereals are fortified with vitamin B12, with some offering 100 percent of your daily requirement in one serving, as well as many other nutrients like iron and calcium. However, if you don't eat eggs or dairy, you might consider taking a B12 supplement. Cereals, along with other whole-grain foods like brown rice and whole wheat pasta, are also rich in other B vitamins, zinc and notably, insoluble fiber, which can reduce cholesterol in your body and reduce risk of colon cancer and other digestive disorders. If you're feeling adventurous, try some of the "ancient" grains, like spelt, farro or kamut.

5. Leafy Greens: Unlike most vegetables out there, dark leafy greens like spinach, broccoli, kale, Swiss chard and collards contain a generous amount of iron, especially spinach. They are also a great source of antioxidants (help fight cancer), folic acids and vitamin A. Toss leafy greens into a salad with yellow and red peppers, tomatoes, carrots, mandarin oranges or any citrus food. If you're going for the cooked route, sauté a couple cups of greens in seasoned olive oil with garlic, onion and sweet peppers.

6. Seaweeds: Not only are they a great source of iron and phytochemicals, many seaweeds such as alaria, kelp, dulse, nori, spirulina and agar are high in minerals like magnesium, calcium, iodine, iron and chromium, as well as vitamins A, C, E and many of the Bs. Superfoods to the rescue! Add chopped dulse to salads and sandwiches, use it in soups or sauté it with other vegetables. Nori sheets can be used as wrappers for vegetarian sushi. Kelp can be toasted and crumbled on pasta or rice, and can be added to noodle soups. The best seaweeds can be found at Japanese or Korean markets, but are showing up in mainstream grocery stores such as Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. Even Costco has seaweed snacks!

7. Dried fruits: Like nuts, these are perfect for snacks, and they're great sources of iron. Combine them with nuts to have a super snack pack of iron and protein! Dried fruits like apricots, raisins, prunes, mangos, pineapples, figs, dates, cranberries and cherries contain a wide variety of minerals and vitamins, as well as some fiber. Use them in chutneys, sprinkle them on salads, blend them with nuts to make your own custom snack mix. Chopped up dried fruits are great with puddings, fruit-based pie fillings, cookies, oat bars and hot and cold cereals.

Even if you're not a vegetarian or vegan, these are great foods to try out as a meat-alternative. Happy World Vegetarian Day!


Reach Arash Zandi here. Follow him on Twitter here.



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