Health & Medical Nutrition

The Top Five Nutrients Vegetarians Lack

Both vegetarian and non-vegetarian diets have advantages.
Vegetarian diets tend to be rich in antioxidants, certain
vitamins, and healthy fats. Non-vegetarian diets, by
contrast, tend to contain more protein, iron, zinc,
calcium, and vitamin B-12.

If you already decided to adopt a vegetarian diet,
it is essential you learn how to increase your intake
and absorption of these nutrients to avoid short-term
and long-term health complications.

In the next few paragraphs, I will explain how you
can regularly assimilate larger portions of these
nutrients into your regular diet:

1. Protein. Different types of protein are made up
of different permutations of amino acid chains.
In order to create a "complete protein" or a
protein that can be assimilated into the human
body as tissue, you must consume foods that contain
complementary chains of amino acids.

Wheat, nuts, and beans are three types of vegan-friendly
incomplete proteins; however, wheat is hard to
digest and up to 50% of its protein is lost
during the process.

Isolated soy protein, which you can get from a number
of sources (including soy milk), can be digested
efficiently-enough to match the animal protein yields.

2. Iron. Plant sources contain a significant amount of
iron, but in nonheme form, which is more sensitive
to inhibitors than iron that comes from animal products.
You should do two things to increase your blood-iron
levels: 1) consume more plant iron; and 2) avoid absorption
inhibitors, such as tea, coffee, and fiber.

3. Zinc. Whereas non-vegetarian diets seem to enhance
the absorption of zinc; vegetarian and vegan diets
do the exact opposite--they inhibit it.

Nutritionists suggest that you can overcome
this by consuming more foods that contain zinc,
such as soybeans, cashews, and sunflower
seeds while reducing your intake of inhibitors
by washing vegetables and grains.

4. Calcium. While vegetarians can easily consume
an adequate amount of calcium without any dietary
additions, it is important that vegetarians avoid
consuming certain foods that are high in oxalates,
which inhibit calcium absorption.

Dietitians suggest that vegetarians do not consume
spinach, beet greens, and swiss chard as the
calcium component of a meal plan. While they are
rich in calcium, they also contain high amounts of

Rather than consuming those foods for calcium,
vegetarians should consider other options, such as
soy yogurt, tofu, beans, almonds, and calcium-
fortified foods.

5. Vitamin B-12. Many vegetarians lack
vitamin B-12 simply because it does not exist
naturally in any non-animal forms. Vegetarians
should seek out vitamin B-12 fortified foods,
such as certain soy milks and cereals to
supplement what they lack.

As I outlined, there are a number of nutrients
vegetarians can lack of they do not research
and plan. This is not meant to discourage
people from becoming vegetarians, but instead
to encourage them to spend time planning a
health approach to their vegetarian diet
before starting it.

When planned adequately, a vegetarian diet
can not only make up for what it lacks from
animal products, but it can far exceed
the healthfulness of most non-vegetarian diets.

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