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5 Common Vegetarian Nutrition Deficiencies

Living a vegetarian lifestyle poses unique vegetarian nutrition needs. Without meat or animal byproducts, essential vitamins and nutrients can dwindle in the body. When daily vegetarian meals lack these essential vitamins and nutrients on a regular basis, serious nutritional deficiencies can occur. Keep reading to discover 5 commom vegetarian deficiencies. 


1. Calcium

Non-vegetarians can choose milk and cheese as their primary forms of calcium intake. For the strict vegetarian, nutritional calcium choices are much slimmer. Calcium fortified soy, rice and almond milk can supply the much needed calcium as long as three to four servings are consumed every day.

Vegetables also contain calcium, which can fit perfectly into the vegetarian nutritional guidelines. Turnip greens, collard greens and rhubarb have the highest amounts of calcium per serving. Tofu recipes cooked with tofu made with calcium sulfate provide a great source of calcium. Just one half cup of tofu made with calcium sulfate can contain as much as 430 mg of calcium.

2. Omega 3

Omega 3 fatty acids and omega 6 fatty acids need to be balanced in the body for optimal health. Most vegetarian nutrition guidelines contain foods that are high in omega 6 fatty acids, but lack a proper source of omega 3s. Fish is the most common omega 3 source, but vegetarians rarely include fish in their diet.

In place of fish, flaxseed, flaxseed oil and raw walnuts can included in daily meals. Flaxseed oil is very temperamental and must not be heated above 100 degrees F. Flaxseeds must be ground immediately before use and can be sprinkled on salads or blended into soy, fruit shakes.

3. Iron

Animal products are the primary source of iron in the typical diet. For the vegetarian or vegan, finding a good source of iron is important. The list of iron containing beans and vegetables is lengthy, which means variety in vegetarian nutrition. Tofu, lentils and Swiss chard are three of the best choices.

Eating iron is not enough, as the body needs vitamin C to convert the iron into a useable form. Optimally, foods rich in iron should served with other foods rich in vitamin C. For an additional iron boost, vitamin C rich foods can be cooked in a cast iron skillet where more iron will be pulled into the food.

4. Zinc

Zinc plays an important role in the body's immune system. Between 15 and 50 mg of zinc should be consumed on a daily basis to keep the immune system strong. Zinc also affects skin and neurological health. For the vegetarian or vegan, toasted wheat germ, Swiss chard and lima beans are the top three sources of zinc.

5. B12

The B vitamins are crucial for energy conversion and the prevention of certain forms of anemia. The typical diet is rich in vitamin B12, as milk, yogurt, choose and eggs are fantastic sources. For the vegetarian, consuming enough vitamin B12 may be the most difficult part of establishing a healthy plan for vegetarian nutrition. Many vegetarians resort to supplements for their vitamin B12 needs. Brewer's yeast, nori, Chlorella and spirulina are the best natural sources of vitamin B12 that can be added to the body. 

While being a vegetarian can promote nutrition deficiencies, there are many healthy substitutes available to provide a well-balanced and nutritious diet.

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