We talk to the President of the Malaysian Vegetarian Society for some tips and tricks for taking on vegetarianism.

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Avian flu, swine flu and Mad Cow Disease – these are only some of the few diseases constantly mentioned in the past few decades and all of them are animal-borne diseases. One can’t help but wonder if becoming a vegetarian is a better option.

President of Malaysian Vegetarian Society, Dr P Vythilingam says, "The public is realising that our body system is created to consume vegetarian food. Other reasons are failing health and awareness of diseases caused directly by consuming meat products."

Certainly as a vegetarian, the overall health of a person would improve and the risk of developing organ-related sicknesses like heart disease is lowered.

He continues, “According to the British Medical Association, researchers have shown that vegetarians have less occurence of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, some types of cancer, renal and gall stones, gout and osteoporosis.”

Though it is a healthy lifestyle, it is definitely not an easy route to take, especially if you have indulged in meat for most of your life. These kinds of cases are often similar to those who try to quit smoking and alcohol; it is not easy but certainly achievable.

We talked to Dr P. Vythilingam and here are some tips and tricks on how you can take on the path of vegetarianism.

Quitting meat
As a former meat lover, cutting all kinds of meat at the same time requires a lot of effort and determination. It is suggested that you start by giving up one meat source at a time by replacing it with alternatives like soy-made meat or tofu patties.

Dr P Vythilingam agrees, “Just add more vegetables and fruits into your diet and slowly reduce your consumption of meat products.”

Try giving up beef first while still taking in other meats. Easing gradually into a vegetarian lifestyle will make it easier to sustain in the long run. After three weeks, take pork or chicken out of the equation and the same routine follows until all types of meat are out of your mind. Voila, your meat addiction is gone!

Another option is to go meat-free once or twice a week and slowly increase it according to your tolerance.

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Sourcing nutrients

On the daily average for an adult, a female needs 47 grams of protein and 56 grams for a male. With your main source of protein gone, remember to replace it with other forms of protein.

Remember, even normal greens like spinach and artichoke contain protein that is necessary for your body. You can also try having a cup of peanuts along with your main vegetable dish for lunch; one ounce of peanut provides you with 6.5 grams of protein.

Dr P Vythilingam recommends soya, nuts, seeds, legumes and sprouts as good sources for proteins in addition to leafy vegetables, fruits, grains and other vegetables.

For those who are too busy to cook their own meals, there are plenty of meat-free restaurants in town for your choosing and for Dr P Vythilingam, he says, "My favourites are Loving Hut, Beyond Veggie by Secret Recipe, Kechara Oasis and The Origin."

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Vegetarian vs. Vegan

For some of you who want to take vegetarianism to the next level, you can walk down the path of vegans. Vegans have a stricter diet than vegetarians where they do not consume any form of animal by-products including milk, cheese or eggs. With that, vegans have to pay extra care in supplementing their calcium and protein.

Note that soybean provides a great source of calcium and protein, therefore soymilk is always recommended, but remember to check the label for the total of calcium and protein per serve. Cereal and orange juice are also great alternatives to get your nutrients.

With all these tips armed, get ready to take on the world of greens with one vegetable at a time. Bon Appetit!

(Photos: thinkstockphotos.com)

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