Sticking to a vegetarian diet is known to hold many health benefits, and is the way of many million people around the globe. Several studies have focused on how consumption of fruits and vegetables could help the body, and how meats could pose several health risks.But then again, many studies have also found that individuals who stick to a vegetarian diet fall short of many important nutrients- vitamins and minerals. If you too, are concerned about all this, keep reading.
What Does a Vegetarian Diet Lack?
While it is already known that a vegetarian diet is one of the best things you could do when it comes to both- your short term and long term health, there are, infact, many nutrients you may lack out on. Consumption of a well balanced plant based diet can reduce the risk of many cancers, heart disease and other major lifestyle related disorders, but on the other hand, it may up the risk of deficiency of several nutrients.
How Can One Overcome it?
Thankfully, overcoming the lack of nutrients in a vegetarian diet isn’t that difficult- you just need to include some special foods that are packed with the important nutrients that you may be lacking out on more in your diet.
Grabbing the Alternatives
Meats and other non-vegetarian foods do have many of the nutrients listed below in appropriate amounts, but if you’re a vegetarian, you may need to look for certain alternatives. Check out some alternative foods you could add to your diet to get your body what it needs.
Vitamin D is essential when it comes to bone health. While most individuals do get their requirement of this vitamin by exposure to sunlight and consumption of red meats and eggs, you may want to choose fortified breakfast cereals, margarine and milk to prevent a deficiency of this important nutrient if you’re a vegetarian.
Zinc is an important nutrient needed for proper wound healing. Vegetarians may need to consume higher amounts of legumes, nuts, soy products, whole grains and cheese to meet their body’s requirement of zinc.
Iron is an essential nutrient that is required for the manufacture of red blood cells in the body. Most meats do contain good amounts of this mineral, but you could also choose to get your body’s required amount of the mineral by adding more dark green leafy vegetables, dried fruits, cereals, beans, peas and whole grain products to your diet. Also make sure you consume vitamin C rich foods like broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes and citrus fruits along with these to ensure that your body is able to absorb the iron obtained through these foods.
Calcium is an extremely important constituent, and is needed for optimum health of the bones and the skeletal system. It is also crucial for growing kids, and following a vegetarian diet could create a shortage of this important mineral in your body. While milk is a good source of calcium, you could also try including other vegetarian foods that are a rich source of calcium including soy milk, sesame seeds, spinach, broccoli, kale, collard greens, carrots, almonds, rice milk, tahini and fortified orange juice.
Another essential mineral that falls short in a vegetarian’s body is iodine. Iodine is necessary for proper health of the thyroid gland and the production of thyroid hormones. Without this mineral, the growth and function of several key organs of the body and metabolism would be faulty. Sometimes, a deficiency of this mineral may also result in goiter. Try including cruciferous vegetables, soybeans and sweet potatoes in your diet. Also make sure that the salt that you use for cooking is iodized salt.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 fatty acids are extremely important when it comes to maintaining heart, brain and hormone health. Fish and eggs contain good amounts of this fat, but if you’re one among the vegetarians, you may want to consider adding more plant based omega 3 fatty acids in your diet. Canola oil, ground flaxseeds, walnuts and soy products are good sources of this fatty acid.
Vitamin B12 is crucial for the production of red blood cells, and a deficiency of this nutrient can result in anemia. While it is exclusively found in animal products, people who follow a strict vegetarian diet can get their daily quota by consuming fortified soy products, vitamin supplements and vitamin enriched cereals that have the vitamin.