Vegetarianism is not new to the world. In Asian countries, there are huge number of populations who have been vegetarian since, ages and absolutely swear by it. Then there are non – vegetarians who prefer eating animal meat and animal products. Lately, a new subdivision of vegetarianism has come up which is known as” vegan”. These are people who absolutely shun meat and animal products and just enjoy natural plant products as part of their diet.
Talking of vegetarianism, it is popular among people partly due to religious reasons and partly due to their sentiments for the animals who get killed for food. Whatever be the reason, we are here talking about many nutritional deficiencies that may develop in vegetarians given their choice of food and lack of regular supplementation which can replace them.
These Are Nutritional Deficiencies Found In Vegans
You will miss vitamin B12
It is one of the most important micronutrient from the B group of vitamins. It is required for proper blood levels in the body and also plays a role in maintaining the nerves and brain activity. While there are many plant sources like seaweeds, Soy, Spirulina and yeast, but they do not seem to be doing enough for the body to replenish vitamin B 12 reserves. Multivitamin supplements are available in the market which should be consumed for fulfilling vitamin B 12 deficiencies.
Iron May Not Be Strong Enough
Plenty of Iron sources are available in the vegetarian diet but the problem remains that the effective absorption of Iron for the body from vegetarian sources is much lower than from non – vegetarian sources. There are certain vitamins and foods which interact and increase the bioavailability of Vitamin C, which is an important vitamin for improving Iron absorption by the body.
But there is some good news, vegetarians can always combine their eatables in such a way as to improve the bioavailability of Iron. For example, vitamin C and Iron utensils used for cooking are some of the options which can help increase the total Iron available for the body. Tea, coffee and other caffeinated drinks reduce Iron absorption by the body. It can be supplemented by drinking green tea, oolong tea etc. which can help up your Iron reserves.
Not Enough Calcium
Another important mineral for the body. Milk is so rich in calcium but vegans do not drink milk, so do people who are lactose intolerant. In the absence of a non – vegetarian diet it becomes a lot more difficult to sustain optimum calcium levels in the body. Like for Iron, the problem of bioavailability from vegetables remains the same for calcium also. Calcium absorption is difficult even from the rather rich sources like cabbage, broccoli and kale. Often these vegetables need to be consumed many times in quantity so as to match the calcium made available from a glass of milk. While vegetarians cherish milk and milk products, vegans are more prone to develop calcium deficiencies for the same reason. Natural supplements available in the market are one of the options for the vegans and other calcium deficient vegetarians.
Zinc It – Up
Zinc is an important micronutrient for the skin, immunity and the nervous system. According to studies, vegetarians require 50 % more zinc in their diet than do omnivores to meet the desired requirements of the body. Wheat germ, potato, oats, soybeans, kidney beans are some of the vegetarian options for natural zinc supplementation. Given that many vegan food products interfere with zinc absorption, it is one vitamin that is commonly found deficient in vegetarians. What you can do to avoid zinc scarcity in the body is to consciously use food products highly rich in zinc and if needed, take adequate artificial supplementation as well.
Vitamin A, D Is Lacking
Vitamin A and D are two fat soluble vitamins which are most commonly found to be deficient in the body of vegetarian and vegan people. Both these vitamins perform important functions in the body. While vitamin A is very important for the eyes, vitamin D helps in controlling the bone strength and skin condition. Animal products like eggs, dairy products, organ meats and sea food are found to be rich sources of these vitamins. Both of these vitamins need to be properly supplemented in vegetarians to prevent other nutritional deficiencies.
Sulfur is as important for the body as are the above five nutrients mentioned. Sulfur can be obtained in abundance from common animal protein sources like fish and poultry meat.
It helps maintain bone structure, joints, connective tissues and many metabolic processes involving enzymes and proteins. Vegans abstaining from animal based products especially animal proteins for a long period of time are found to be deficient in this important element and suffer from the many deficiency diseases that may even precipitate a heart attack.