Do Vegetarians Lack Certain Nutrients?

People love to talk about how unhealthy a vegetarian diet can be.  Many are certain that vegetarians are all lacking proteins, anemic, and generally unhealthy.  Of course that is all untrue.  As a matter of fact some of our healthiest athletes are vegan, abstaining from all animal products.  Heisman trophy winner Desmond Howard is vegan, as well as tennis player Martina Navratilova, Nicky Cole the first woman to walk to the North Pole and countless others.  It’s hard to imagine that they are lacking anything while having their bodies perform at such incredible levels.

Personally, I am very careful to eat a balanced diet, ensuring that I am consuming ample sources of a variety of nutrients to meet my bodies needs.  Recently my Dr did some blood work checking for potential deficiencies and I’m glad to report that my only concern is a vitamin D deficiency.  This is a deficiency shared by many Americans eating a variety of diets.  However, I wanted to find good sources of nutrients that are important to vegetarians.  Here’s what I found:

Protein is essential to the growth of strong muscles, it repairs tissues and helps maintain our hormonal and immune system.  I don’t seem to have any difficulty consuming protein, many foods I enjoy provide an adequate source of it.  These foods include legumes, nuts, seeds, and sietan.  Other sources of protein are quinoa, tofu, broccoli, kale, and spinich.

B 12 is the hardest vitamin to find in the vitamin world.  It is mainly found in eggs, dairy and meat products.  Outside of that one must consume it in fortified products such as cereals or soy milk.  There is a nutritional yeast product that contains this vitamin in a vegan form.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids play an important role in brain function and reduce the risk of heart disease.  Many people get these essential fats from fish or fish oil supplements.  Supplements are prone to going bad where the oils inside the gel caplet are rancid.  I prefer getting mine from natural sources.  These include walnuts, ground flax seed, and canola oil.  If you consume eggs you can find some with higher sources of omega 3s.  I like to add walnuts or ground flax seed to my morning smoothie.

Folate supports cell growth and allows nerves to function properly.  A deficiency in this might irritability, fatigue general and muscular, depression and insomnia.  Some of the best vegetarian sources of folate include lentils, many cooked beans such as pinto and garbanzo beans, cooked spinich, and collard greens.

Vitamin D is a favorite of mine.  The dairy industry is trying to convince us that their products are the best sources of vitamin D but that’s not true.  People in Eastern countries that consume far less dairy have much lower incidence of osteoporosis.  This is mainly because they get their sources of vitamin D from a plant based diet which is what humans were meant to eat.  The easiest source of this vitamin is right outside your door, sunlight!  Spend a few minutes in the sun everyday and it will naturally boost your levels.  It is found in many fortified products such as soy or rice milk and many cereals.  It can also be found naturally in many varieties of wild mushrooms.  Although I live in the Sunshine State I am deficient in this vitamin and have started taking a vegetarian supplement.

To me supplements should be a last option, one used after attempting to eat a healthy well rounded diet.  Many people disagree with this and find that taking supplements enhance their lives.  Personally I have an aversion to taking any pills unless necessary but that is not to say that I am medication or supplement free.  Ultimately, I guess it’s all about finding the right balance for yourself.

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  1. One group of people that should be aware of problems that can be caused by a strict vegan diet are pregnant women. This can cause a vitamin B12 deficiency in some. Newborns that are vitamin B12 deficient can develop serious and irreversible neurological conditions. Making matters worse is that this can happen in a short amount of time. Pregnant women who are also vegans should discuss this with their doctors.

    • Johnb656
    • August 11th, 2014

    Thanks so much for the article.Much thanks again. Great. effffaeekbcf

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