Medical News Today: What to know about becoming a vegetarian

A person may be at risk of certain nutritional deficiencies when making the switch to a strictly vegetarian or vegan diet.

The specific nutrients that a person may be lacking will depend largely on the type of vegetarian diet that they eat.

For instance, a person who still eats dairy, fish, eggs, or a limited amount of meat may not have any issues with nutritional deficiencies. Conversely, people who follow vegan diets may need to supplement with vitamins and minerals, depending on their dietary intake and restrictions.

Some of the nutrients that are most likely to be lacking include:

Protein

Most people get their protein from meat, fish, or poultry. Lacto, ovo, and lacto-ovo vegetarians can get protein from both plant and animal sources. People who follow a vegan diet will not get protein from animal products. Some substitutes can include:

  • certain grains, such as quinoa
  • legumes
  • beans
  • seeds
  • nuts
  • nut and seed butters

Read more about some of the best meat substitutes for vegetarians here.

Iron

Iron is another nutrient that is present in red meats and other animal-based products. However, a person can get iron from other sources, such as:

  • broccoli
  • beans
  • raisins
  • whole grain wheat

Read more about the best iron-rich foods for vegetarians and vegans here.

Calcium

Calcium is primarily in milk and other dairy products. Some potential replacements for people following a vegetarian diet that does not include dairy include:

  • tofu
  • edamame
  • kale
  • fortified cereals
  • collard greens
  • almonds
  • rhubarb
  • fortified plant milk, such as soy or rice milk

Vitamin D

The body produces vitamin D when the skin gets direct exposure to sunlight. However, certain factors can make it difficult to get enough vitamin D in this way. For example, in many countries, there is not much sun during the winter months, and people tend to cover up.

Also, many people prefer to limit the time that they spend in direct sunlight to reduce the risk of sunburn and skin cancer.

As the dietary sources of vitamin D are mostly animal products, vitamin D supplements are the best way for many vegetarians and vegans to get consistent, absorbable vitamin D.

Zinc

Zinc is another nutrient that is important for a person’s body. Many animal-based foods are high in zinc, including meat, seafood, eggs, and dairy. However, there are also plant-based sources of zinc, such as:

  • soy products
  • beans
  • nuts
  • beans

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are present in fish, such as salmon. These healthful fats are important for overall health, especially brain health.

Although plant-based omega-3 fatty acids also occur naturally in chia seeds, algal oil, and flax, these are a type called alpha-linolenic acids, which the body has a limited ability to convert to active forms. Therefore, a person may wish to look for fortified products or talk to their doctor about omega-3 supplements.

Vitamin B-12

Vitamin B-12 is important for many functions in the body, including red blood cell production. A vegetarian can obtain vitamin B-12 from:

  • eggs and milk, if they are following a vegetarian diet that includes these foods
  • certain fortified cereals
  • fortified plant milk
  • nutritional yeast
  • supplements

Source Article from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327251.php

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