Eating fruits and vegetables every day is good for your health. Can we do without meat and fish? Yes, but can we decide to take the plunge and become 100% vegetarian without consequences for health, knowing that deprivation can be harmful? Yes, as long as you balance your meals. This article shares some important information on how to be a vegetarian without any deficiencies by focusing on your diet.
Being vegan or vegetarian does not necessarily induce a deficiency, provided that the diet is well constructed and subject to regular medical supervision. It can, on the contrary, be very beneficial for health. All you need is to plan what you eat and know each food to prevent nutritional deficiencies by avoiding the deficit of specific vitamins or minerals.
Let's first discuss this in the light of scientific evidence.
Recent Evidence in Support of Vegetarian Diet
It is now widely accepted that a well-conducted vegetarian diet presents no risk. It can be beneficial for cardiovascular health. A recent review shows that a well-balanced vegetarian diet can meet all the key nutrient requirements of the body in children and adults of all ages. In addition, it can provide additional health benefits if you go for a nutrient-dense vegetarian diet, particularly in terms of preventing the body from chronic diseases.
A concern raised by some researchers is that a vegan diet can be detrimental to muscle strength due to the nutritional deficiencies it causes. Many recent studies contradict this belief. Therefore, a recent study studied the differences in muscle strength and endurance between vegan and non-vegan people and found that a vegan diet is not detrimental to these factors. It even found better endurance among the vegan group.
Recent evidence on health benefits associated with a vegetarian diet is ample. A study even found that people who consume a vegetarian diet have lower bad cholesterol (LDL) levels, reduced blood pressure, and reduced risk of developing diabetes. However, researchers stress the importance of including the right components into a vegetarian diet to ensure that it is nutritionally adequate.
Now let's discuss the critical nutrients your body needs and incorporate them into your vegetarian diet.
Critical Nutrients Your Body Needs
Critical nutrients are the ones, if consumed lower than the recommended levels, can put your health at risk. Among the essential nutrients, there are:
Iron in foods of plant origin is absorbed to a lesser extent, but in addition, a high intake of fibre and phytates widely spread in plant foods can reduce its assimilation. 8 and 18 mg are recommended daily, in men and women, respectively.
Like iron, the calcium of vegetable origin is not absorbed in the same way, and in addition, this mineral is found above all, in milk and derivatives, fish and shellfish. Approximately 1000 mg of calcium is needed each day.
It is a vitamin produced in your body, but you must also ingest it with food. It is found mostly in meats, eggs, and foods of animal origin. About 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B 12 are needed daily.
It is found mainly in fish and dairy products. Therefore, it can be deficient in vegetarian diets. Between 5 and 10 micrograms of this vitamin are required daily.
This trace element is rich in non-vegan food. Therefore, you must pay special attention to its intake to prevent its deficit. Each day 9 and 11 mg are required in women and men, respectively.
These are the critical nutrients that need your attention to prevent deficiencies and diseases. Let's discuss how you can take a vegetarian diet without missing any of the above nutrients.
Sources of Critical Nutrients in a Vegetarian Diet
To prevent nutritional deficiencies by guaranteeing the minerals and vitamins mentioned above, you can resort to alternative sources of these nutrients suitable for vegetarians. For example,
- To obtain calcium, you can consume poppy seeds, almonds, sunflower seeds and cabbages in general, which are good sources of this mineral.
- To obtain iron, you can resort to peach dried apricots, soy flour, quinoa or lentils and other legumes, while to consume zinc, you can use chickpeas and peanuts.
- Good sources of vegetable origin of vitamin D are vegetable margarine or breakfast cereals enriched with this nutrient. You should also expose yourself to the sun for about 15 minutes each day to guarantee vitamin D synthesis and, thus, prevent its deficiency.
- Finally, to obtain vitamin B12 in vegan diets, soy milk, fortified breakfast cereals, and brewer's yeast can be used in different preparations.
You can see, there are different alternative sources to obtain these critical nutrients and thus, prevent nutritional deficiencies among vegetarians.
Smart Nutrient Combinations for Vegetarians
Below is the appropriate combination of ingredients to increase certain minerals and vitamins absorption by mixing foods wisely. Good food combinations for vegans are:
Lentils with pepper or orange juice
If you combine red pepper with lentils in a stew or salad or accompany this dish with fresh orange juice, the vitamin C in the juice or pepper will favour the absorption of iron from lentils.
Fresh fruits with almonds and dried apricots
This combination allows the vitamin C present in fruits to increase the absorption of calcium and iron that almonds and dried apricots offer. So a good breakfast would bring together these ingredients.
Breakfast cereals with almonds
Almonds contain calcium that is better absorbed in the presence of vitamin D, a nutrient that we can obtain from breakfast cereals. Also, vitamin D is better absorbed in the presence of fats that almonds can provide.
Quinoa with cabbage and lemon juice
Make a salad with these ingredients. Due to its acidity, lemon juice will improve the absorption of calcium from the cabbage, and vitamin C from it will increase the assimilation of iron from the quinoa.
Thus, it is possible to take a vegetarian diet without deficiencies by taking the right food sources. Following these simple tips, you can make the most out of each nutrient and take care of your health through a balanced and varied vegetarian diet.