At the beginning of what will be National Vegetarian Week (20-26th May 2013) it seems appropriate to ask whether being a vegetarian has any special impact on the consideration of weight-loss/bariatric surgery. Are the restrictions of such a diet (or way of life) going to prove too problematic for those who elect for surgery?
The good news, that comes off the back of a recent study at the University of Oxford, is that a well-planned vegetarian or vegan diet is most apt for the weight-loss surgery patient. Indeed the risks (such as hospitalisation and death from heart disease) is 32% lower in vegetarians than in people that choose to eat meat and fish. Researchers say that the health benefits that are often experienced by vegetarians are likely to be related to having lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
It has long been noted that decreasing your intake of saturated fat and cholesterol has a positive impact on such health issues but add to that the increase of heart-healthy unsaturated fats and fibre (which the typical healthy vegetarian diet has) means a vegetarian diet may have the edge over a carnivorous one.
The secret of course is making sure that the vegetarian or vegan diet is a good healthy, varied and nutritious one. A vegetarian diet (as we know) excludes meat, poultry, fish and seafood. A vegan diet additionally excludes eggs and dairy. These foods are typical and staple protein sources for patients who have had weight-loss/bariatric surgery … so what to have instead?
Well thankfully there are a wide variety of plant-based protein sources from which to choose. These include beans, lentils, nuts, tofu, soya and quinoa. They can also be supplemented with vegetarian cheeses, yogurt and eggs.
Cooking from scratch and preparing your own vegetarian meals is undoubtedly better than buying ready-prepared special dishes but there are some good vegetarian staples like veggie burgers, vegetable roasts and gratins out there in the supermarket aisles.
It is however wise to carefully plan (with a registered dietician) your post-op vegetarian or vegan diet to ensure adequate protein intake. Since plant-based foods are often less protein-dense than their animal-based counterparts, some vegetarian and vegan WLS patients may need to consider including some protein supplements (like drinks, bars, powders etc) in their diet to meet the daily goal of about 70g of protein a day.
In the meantime…let’s get cooking … this week I shall feature a couple of vegetarian dishes to celebrate National Vegetarian Week. In the meantime why not revisit my Summer Mushroom and Chickpea Burger recipe on this site and give the convenience food a miss … it’s budget conscious too!