Living the Vegetarian Lifestyle!

In general, a well-planned holistic vegetarian diet can be a healthy choice for individuals throughout their life. Individualised nutrition plans that reflect preferences and lifestyle requirements are important to ensure nutritional needs are met.

Being or becoming a vegetarian or vegan isn’t a clear-cut or unambiguous decision, where everyone is exactly the same. Meat eaters are not identical, some may not eat red meat, and others may not like the taste of chicken. It is a matter of personal preference or conscience. Common reasons for choosing to be a vegetarian or vegan include cultural, health, ethical, environment, taste preferences, and/or parental influences.
There are variation of vegetarianism and veganism including:
Lacto Vegetarian: includes the consumption of vegetables, fruit, beans, grains, nuts, seeds, and dairy products. Meat, fish, poultry and eggs are excluded.
Lacto-ovo Vegetarian: includes consumption of vegetables, fruit, legumes, grains, nuts, seeds, eggs and dairy products. With exclusions of meat, fish and poultry. 
Pescatarian: (semi-vegetarian) include the consumption of vegetables, fruit, beans, grains, nuts, seeds, dairy products, eggs and fish with meat and poultry being excluded.
Vegan: includes the consumption of vegetables, fruit, legumes (beans, peas, lentils), grains, nuts and seeds. With the exclusion of meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, eggs and other animal products.
Fruitarian: includes consumption of fruit, foods botanically classified as fruit (tomato, avocado), nuts and seeds. With the exclusions of meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, vegetables (including legumes), grains, and eggs.



Some individuals choose to become vegetarian for the health benefits. While it is possible for vegetarians to eat unhealthier foods such as foods made with trans fats, sugar and salt, on the large scale vegetarians generally consume a nutritious diet. A Canadian study identifying increased fibre intake, reduced saturated fat intake, and chronic disease prevention as the main benefits associated with a vegetarian diet.

What are the health benefits?
Cancer: Vegetarian diets may increase the consumption of nutrients and dietary components reducing the risk of cancer including vegetables, fruit, antioxidants, good fats, fibre and lower in dietary substances associated with increased risk such as saturated fat.

Cardiovascular Disease: Food choices such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, lentils and legumes in combination with other lifestyle factors may have a protective effect against cardiovascular disease. A vegetarian diet may include higher amounts of these foods, modifying several risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease including blood pressure, cholesterol levels and weight. Several large studies have found an associated between vegetarianism and lower rates of mortality from ischemic heart disease.

Diabetes: A variety of studies suggest the vegetarian diet is related to a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The beneficial effects are not attributed to decreased body weight, but to the prospective metabolic effect of several food components, notably wholegrains, soy, vegetables, legumes and the limited intake of other foods such as processed meats.

Overweight and Obesity: Across the varying types of vegetarian diets have an associated lower BMI than meat eaters.
Cultural: In Hinduism and Buddhism vegetarianism is advocated for in scriptures, whereas Jainism vegetarianism is mandatory for everyone. Comparatively, within Islam meat is praised and considered to be a pleasure, and in Christianity vegetarianism and meat-eaters both find support.


Others choose to adopt a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle to protect animals and support the unnecessary slaughtering of animals. Vegetarians may also object to the underlying production of meat, voice concerns about animal welfare and animal rights. In addition, not wanting animal products to be exploited, such as clothing.


There are several indications for vegetarian/vegan diets to positively impacting the environment. The belief is centred on the indication that animal production, particularly intense farming is environmentally unsustainable. Including concerns for pollution and use of land and fossil fuels. The unsustainability is associated with the constantly increasing population and the requirement to increase meat production in order to support the nation. Farming practices are certainly evolving to address these concerns.

Nutrients at risk for vegetarians
As above, a well-planned vegetarian diet can be a healthy choice for individuals. However, there are nutrients that are at a higher risk for being low or deficient amongst vegetarians and vegans. These include iron, vitamin B12, zinc, iodine and vitamin D.
Iron: a mineral in the blood that is required to carry oxygen around the blood. Without enough iron, you can become fatigues, look pale and irritable. Vegetarians, especially young children, pregnant and pre-menopausal women and some athletes have a higher risk for iron deficiency. Food contains two types of iron: haem and non-haem. Haem iron is found in meat, seafood and poultry and absorption rates equal approximately 25-30% of the haem iron consumed. Non-haem iron which makes up to 90% of the iron consumed is found in both plants and meat with absorption rates closer to 15%.

For vegetarians, it is important to incorporate non-haem iron foods including: dried peas, beans, lentils, oatmeal, iron-fortified pasta and cereals, tofu, tempeh, spinach, asparagus, beets, beet and turnip greens. As sources of haem iron are excluded, the requirement for iron increases by 1.8 times the recommendation. You can increase absorption by eating non-haem iron with vitamin C rich foods such as oranges, grapefruits, pineapple, kiwi fruit, papayas, strawberries, mangoes, peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, cabbage, snow peas, cauliflower and kale. Drinking coffee or tea during or after a meal can decrease the amount of non-haem iron absorbed, in addition to concurrent intakes of calcium and other minerals.

Vitamin B12: is required to form DNA, make healthy blood cells and keep nerves working properly. Vitamin B12 is only found in animal foods and fortified foods. Depending on the vegetarian, generally animal products are avoided, and will need meat alternatives, such as soy products fortified with vitamin B12.

Zinc: is found in every part of our body and has a wide range of functions including: growth and development, reproduction, vitamin A metabolism, night vision, appetite, taste sensation, strong immune system, healthy skin, wound healing and hormone interactions. For vegetarian diets, the bioavailability of zinc in plant foods tends to be lower than in animal foods and higher in phytic acid (unrefined grains, legumes, nuts and seeds). Phytic acid binds to zinc and inhibits its absorption in the body.

It is important to incorporate dietary zinc, found in legumes, wholegrain breads and cereals, brown rice, soy (tofu and tempeh), nuts, seeds, eggs, cheese and zinc fortified foods. To aid absorption, you can include vitamin C containing foods (as mentioned above) and consume products that contain yeast (breads). Also avoiding excessive intake of unprocessed wheat bran (high in phytic acid).

Iodine: is an essential nutrient required for the production of thyroid hormones. These hormones are crucial for normal growth, and physical and mental development. Iodine is only required in small amounts, however, the body cannot store large amounts and a regular intake is necessary.

For vegetarians, iodine content in plant foods is lower compared to animal foods secondary to the low or variable iodine concentration in soil. To ensure adequate intake, vegetarians and vegans are encouraged to use iodised salt or include sea vegetables such as nori on a regular basis. Kelp is not a recommended iodine sources because of the variability in iodine concentration and has been documented as a toxicity source.

Vitamin D: plays an important role in bone health. Vitamin D strengths bones by increase the amount of calcium absorbed into them. It is also important for maintaining the immune system, healthy skin and muscle strength. There are two sources of Vitamin D:

Sun exposure is the main source of vitamin D where the nutrient is produced in the skin from UV rays. The amount of vitamin D produced depends on: the time of day, season, latitude, skin pigmentation, use of sunscreen, amount of skin exposed, length of time exposed and age. Most people are able to get adequate vitamin D through skin exposure.
Dietary sources also contain vitamin D. The only vegetarian foods containing vitamin D are eggs (small amounts), vitamin D mushrooms and fortified foods (fresh and powdered milk, margarines and limited soy milks, yoghurt and cheese).

Vegetarians are generally unable to meet vitamin D requirements through dietary means alone and sufficient sun exposure is required.

Any diet that has a strong plant based focus with minimal intake of overly processed foods is likely to see significant long term health benefits. Its little wonder that the vegan Seventh Day Adventists in California, are one of the longest lived populations on the planet, despite living in the USA where rates of chronic disease are exploding. With the right approach a vegetarian diet can meet all nutrition requirements and provide the foundation for longevity.

Rebecca Cubbage

The Tweaking Diet

As some of you may know, and many others may not, I have decided it is time to step up and write a book. One of the most nerve wracking things I have done!
In November I attended The Ultimate 48 Hour Author Retreat in Victoria and completed my book.
The facilitators running this event issued us all a challenge. And I need your help to win.
We are seeing who can sell the most books which is exciting but scary at the same time.
My book is called The Tweaking Diet and I am writing it because day after day I see people think that they need to adopt a diet completely foreign to theirs in order to lose weight. There are a million ways to lose weight. Most will work for a short time however the only way to keep it off is by eating the foods you like, the foods you can afford and the foods you have access to. This book is about showing people how to tweak their own diet, lose weight and keep it off. Everyone’s requirements and triggers are different. This book will identify yours!
My book will be back from the publishers in April 2017 and will sell for $29.95 yet I have decided to offer it for sale at a pre-release price of $19.95 plus $5 postage Australia wide.
Click on the link below if you are interested in being one of the first to get a copy of The Tweaking Diet or would like to support me on my journey to being a published author.

Watch this space.

What to do with an irritable bowel

What is irritable bowel syndrome?

According to researchers at Monash University, “Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common functional gastrointestinal disorder affecting one in seven Australian adults and is also common in the USA, Europe and many Asian countries. IBS is characterised by chronic and relapsing symptoms; lower abdominal pain and discomfort, bloating, wind, distension and altered bowel habit (ranging from diarrhoea to constipation) but with no abnormal pathology.”



How is IBS diagnosed?

IBS should be diagnosed by a medical practitioner. The symptoms of IBS can mimic that of other conditions such as coeliac disease, crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. These latter gastrointestinal conditions can have far greater consequences on your health. It is for this reason that a medical practitioner must first eliminate these conditions as a potential cause of your gastrointestinal symptoms. Before eliminating any foods you suspect as a trigger for your symptoms, first see your GP for a thorough investigation. If you suspect a gluten intolerance then it’s critical that you continue to eat gluten while your medical practitioner investigates. If you are not exposed to gluten then there is a chance you will falsely test negative to coeliac disease.

Can diet help?

Approximately 75% of IBS cases find relief with adherence to a low FODMAP diet. FODMAP stands for Fermentable, Oligosaccarides, Disaccharides, Monosaccaharides and Polyols. These are all types of carbohydrates that are fermented in the bowel and may cause bloating, discomfort and disordered bowel habits.
This video from Monash University provides a great explanation of IBS and FODMAPs.

As there are a range of FODMAPs, it is important to investigate which of these you may be intolerant to. If you restrict all FODMAP containing foods then you may be restricting foods unnecessarily, putting yourself at risk of nutrient deficiencies. Investigating FODMAP intolerance’s is done via either a low FODMAP diet followed by a series of FODMAP challengers, or by hydrogen breath testing.

Hydrogen breath testing is a non-invasive technique that determines your absorptive capacity for particular FODMAPs. When FODMAPs are fermented in the bowel, hydrogen is produced and can be measured in the breath through one of our hydrogen breath testing instruments. Only one test can be performed each day, and the duration of each test is usually 2-3 hours.


The tests performed are:
This test is the first in a series of tests. The lactulose test can be used to identify small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), orocaecal transit time (speed you digest food) and most importantly, hydrogen production. Approximately 5% of people do not produce hydrogen. If you are experiencing bloating and discomfort without hydrogen registering on the device, it is safe to say you are a non-hydrogen producer.
This is the main carbohydrate found in dairy foods. Some people lack the enzyme lactase that digests lactose in order for it to be absorbed. Others may have had a recent gastrointestinal condition that has temporarily reduced their levels of lactase.
This is the main sugar found in fruit and a number of legumes. Some people may not absorb fructose efficiently when it is in high concentrations or found in much greater proportions to that of glucose (which facilitates its absorption).
This is one of the polyols. It is found in a variety of foods, particularly in fruits. It is used frequently as a sweetner in gum and is known to cause diarrhoea due to it’s limited absorption.
Mannitol is another polyol and like sorbitol is found in a variety of foods. Mushrooms are a well known source of mannitol.
Testing for hydrogen levels with glucose is not related to FODMAPs, however it can be used to determine SIBO. This is not routinely performed but in certain cases may be needed to provide further evidence of SIBO.

There are other FODMAPs that are not tested via breath test. This is due to the fact no one absorbs these therefore breath testing is of little diagnostic use.

Hydrogen breath testing is more about ruling foods in then it is about ruling foods out. Most people suspect certain foods cause irritable bowel symptoms and may restrict them on this basis. The problem with restricting foods on suspicion is that it may have been another food that caused the symptom. We digest food at varying rates and we often eat another meal or snack before the effects of the earlier meal are being felt. This often leads to a false self-diagnosed food intolerance. I have recently tested clients who for years have been restricting certain FODMAPs, despite us discovering they were absorbing these FODMAPs all along. This opened up a whole range of foods that were previously thought to be unavailable to them. If you’re interested in hydrogen breath testing follow this link to make an appointment and request further information

An elimination diet may assist you to determining which of the FODMAPs you are intolerant to also. This requires an initial dietetic consultation followed by a strict 2-3 week low FODMAP diet. Once you have established that there has been an improvement in your gastrointestinal symptoms, a further dietetic consult is required to assess and plan your FODMAP food challengers. This process can take weeks to months to complete depending on your reactions to the particular challengers. If you do observe a reaction to one of the challengers, it is important to halve the dose and retrial that FODMAP in order to establish how much of that FODMAP you can tolerate. A final dietetic consult is required to assess your diet for nutrient adequacy based on the probability of food restriction. This method can be a very effective and cost efficient way of identifying FODMAP intolerances. This process is not quite as diagnostic as hydrogen breath testing, however if the client is confident in their ability to strictly adhere to a low FODMAP diet throughout the challenge period, it can be very useful in determining intolerances.