Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Vegetarian Power Diet - Gary Zeolla

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by Gary Zeolla, 1981 National Collegiate Champion

As a Junior at Penn State majoring in nutrition, a powerlifter, and a vegetarian, I have made some decisions as to the foods that I avoid. These include meat, sugar and any highly processed and refined foodstuffs. Sugar and refined products contribute noting in the way of nutrients to the body. Meat, although it provides several nutrients, also contains large amounts of saturated fats and cholesterol. High consumption of these two elements has been linked to the development of arterio-sclerosis (hardening of the arteries), and resultant heart attacks and strokes. This, along with the ethical considerations of the treatment and slaughter of domesticated animals and concerns of the world food problems, is why I choose to follow a vegetarian diet.

In deciding what to eat, I utilize a very simple guideline - The Basic Four Food Groups. Remember your elementary school teachings? As a quick reminder, the four food groups and the recommended daily intake of each are:

Fruits and Vegetables - 4 servings
Breads and Cereals - 4 servings
Milk and Milk products - 2 servings
Meat, Poultry, Fish, and Protein alternatives - 2 servings

I will make some specific comments on each group and how I utilize the information in my diet.

Fruits and Vegetables

The most under-consumed foods in America! The closest the average American comes to eating a vegetable is in the form of tomato sauce used to make pizza. This is very unfortunate though, since vegetables are one of the most concentrated sources of nutrients available. They are rich sources of Vitamins A and C, the B complex vitamins, trace minerals and dietary fiber. The array of vegetables available in our society is staggering. However, besides tomatoes, the only other vegetable readily eaten is the potato, which is usually deep fried into a fatty mess.

I have learned to experiment. When you come across a new vegetable - try it, you may like it - and your lifting and health will be better for it. I usually consume 3-4 servings of vegetables a day with at least one being a Vitamin A rich source. These include: green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, collards, mustard greens, Boston and Romaine lettuce), asparagus, squash, broccoli, carrots and yes, even tomatoes.

Fruits are more accepted in our society. In fact, orange juice supplies the bulk of Vitamin C in the American diet. In addition to Vitamin C, fruits also supply some Vitamin A, B complex, trace minerals, dietary fiber and are the best source of natural sugars available. This is important to remember when your sweet tooth starts throbbing and you reach for a Snickers bar. Eat an apple instead, or other fresh fruit or even some raisins; they are just as sweet and aren't refined into "empty" calories. I usually enjoy about five servings of fruit or fruit juice a day with at least one being Vitamin C rich citrus fruit or juice. This makes for a total of 8-9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

Breads and Cereals

Regardless of what the advertising industry tries to manipulate the public into believing, white flour is not as nutritious as whole wheat flour. The Continental Baking Company was recently charged with deception by the FTC for its Wonder Bread as in which it broadcasted, "With Wonder, good nutrition doesn't have to be whole wheat." In the ad they compared the amounts of six nutrients in Wonder bread with whole wheat bread where the levels in Wonder equaled or exceeded those in whole wheat. Unfortunately, they failed to mention that while whole wheat has substantial quantities, white bread is virtually devoid of: dietary fiber, magnesium, zinc, copper, manganese, potassium, vitamin E, vitamin B-6, chromium, folacin and pantothenic acid. Remember this the next time you make a sandwich.

In addition to the nutrients listed above, whole wheat products contain thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, iron and protein. Whole wheat, along with other whole grain products, are about the most valuable foods around. The energy available in grains is mainly complex carbohydrates, which is the preferred energy source of the body.

Along with bread and breakfast cereals, other whole grain products I consume are bulghur, (a cracked wheat dish), granola, corn tortillas, pita bread, brown rice, corn, corn meal, oatmeal and whole wheat muffins, spaghetti (I'm Italian!), macaroni, noodles and homemade whole wheat pizza - my specialty. I usually partake of around eight servings of these products a day.

Milk and Milk Products

As I mentioned, I am a vegetarian. More specifically, I follow an ovo-lacto vegetarian diet. This means that I do eat eggs and milk products. The milk products I do consume are usually low-fat, non-fat dried milk, yogurt and low-fat cottage cheese. I also eat a good amount of cheese which isn't low in fat. Cheese is one of only a limited number of foods that I use that are high in fat. The only others are eggs (limited to an average of less than one per day), peanuts, sunflower seeds, and for cooking purposes, margarine and vegetable oil. Also, to be honest, at times I get an irresistible urge to down a quart of ice cream, which is not only extremely high in fat but also in added sugar and numerous questionable chemicals. Oh well, no one's perfect!

In any case, milk products are good sources of protein and contribute most of the calcium available in the American food supply. They are also rich in riboflavin, phosphorous, Vitamin B-12 and if fortified, Vitamin D. I usually consume 3-4 servings a day, in addition to any ice cream I eat when my willpower wanes.

Meat, Poultry, Fish and Protein Alternatives

Being a vegetarian, the emphasis here is on protein alternates although I do consume some seafood. By protein alternates, I am referring to legumes, which is a general term and includes beans (lima, baked, kidney, etc.), lentils, and peanuts. Other protein sources are cheese, cottage cheese, eggs, split peas, sunflower seeds and other nuts and seeds.

In addition to protein, this group supplies iron, thiamine, niacin, riboflavin and Vitamin B-12. I usually eat 3-4 servings daily.

In conclusion, I would like to make two statements concerning supplements. First off, if you follow a balanced diet, you do not need to take supplements. Ad more importantly, taking a supplement is not an adequate substitute for following a balanced diet. This country supplies the most abundant food supply ever known. To say you have to depend on a tablet to nourish your body in this land of plenty is insane. What is needed though is to make the right selections amidst this vast food supply. This requires a little effort, knowledge, and lots of willpower. I know this can be difficult, especially when walking by a Baskin-Robbins on a hot summer day, but the benefits to your lifting, your arteries, your heart, your health and longevity are more than worth the effort.

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