Did you know that October is Vegetarian Awareness Month?  Whether you’re a vegan, vegetarian, a Meatless Monday participant, or even someone who’s curious as to how the hell vegetarians get protein, there are all kinds of reasons to appreciate vegetarianism.

For those of you with the protein question, the answer is that all kinds of plant foods are rich in protein. Legumes, nuts, seeds, grains, and even vegetables all have protein in them plus filling fiber, which animal-based protein like meat does not have. Lacto-vegetarians can also get protein from dairy products, and ovo-vegetarians may get protein from eggs. Even as a vegan it’s easy to meet your protein needs.

The nutrients that many vegetarians have to stay on top of are vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium (if vegan), iron, iodine, zinc and omega 3 fatty acids. Supplements and fortified vegetarian foods like soy milk or veggie burgers are some of the main ways in which people get these nutrients, but they can be found in small amounts in food—think nutritional yeast and seaweed for B12; eggs and shitake mushrooms for vitamin D; molasses, lentils, and dark leafy greens for iron. Ground flax, chia seeds, nuts and even some leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables are great sources of omega 3’s, though it is true that they are not as bioavailable as what you find in, say, salmon and other fish. Omega 3 is another nutrient you find as a supplement in all kinds of foods.

There are many reasons someone choose to follow a vegetarian diet. Ethical, spiritual, concern for the environment, and an interest in good health and disease prevention are just a few of the most common.

Here are a few of my favorite vegetarian recipes that I make all the time:

Butter beans in spicy tomato sauce

Butter beans in spicy tomato sauce

What are your favorite vegetarian foods? 

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