Fats are an essential part of any well-balanced diet, including a vegetarian diet. Fats are made of smaller units – called fatty acids. These fatty acids may be saturated, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. Saturated and monounsaturated fats are not necessary in a vegetarian diet as they can be made in the human body. However, two polyunsaturated fatty acids – linoleic acid (omega 6) and linolenic acid (omega 3) – cannot be manufactured by the body and must be provided in the diet.
Fortunately, they are widely available in vegetarian/vegan plant foods. Evidence is increasing that omega 6 (found in foods like vegetable oils such as corn, safflower and sesame) and especially omega 3 (found in flax, walnuts, avocados, almonds and olive and canola oil) fats are beneficial for a range of conditions, including heart disease, cancer, immune system deficiencies and arthritis.
Healthy fats and oils play active roles in every stage of the body’s healing, building, and maintenance processes. In fact, they are as important to an active individual’s body as amino acids, minerals, and vitamins. Healthy fats and oils help convert light and sound into electrical nerve impulses, remove potentially toxic substances from sensitive tissue, and provide strength to cell membranes.
The following vegetarian menu sample shows how easy it is for essential fatty acids to be a part of your every day vegetarian diet.
1 bagel with 2 tsp vegan margarine, 1 medium orange, 1 cup Cheerios cereal, and 1 cup soymilk
Sandwich of hummus made with 3/4 cup chickpeas and 2 teaspoons tahini (a sandwich spread made from ground sesame seeds) on 2 slices of whole wheat bread with 3 slices of tomato and 1/2 sliced avocado
1 cup of cooked pasta with 1/4 cup marinara sauce, 1/3 cup carrot sticks, 1 cup cooked broccoli (frozen or fresh), and 1 whole wheat roll
1/2 cup almonds, and 1 cup soymilk