Vegetarian: Top 5 Nutrient Concerns

Vegetarian Portions

Both vegetarian and non-vegetarian diets have advantages. Vegetarian diets tend to be rich in antioxidants, certain vitamins, and healthy fats. Non-vegetarian diets, by contrast, tend to contain more protein, iron, zinc, calcium, and unhealthy fats.

If are a vegetarian, here is a diet tune up for those in need. It is essential you learn how to increase your intake and absorption of these nutrients to avoid short-term and long-term health complications.

1) Iron
Plant sources contain a significant amount of iron, but in non-heme form, which is more sensitive to inhibitors than iron that comes from animal products.

You should do two things to increase your blood-iron levels:

  • Consume more plant iron
  • Avoid absorption inhibitors, such as tea, coffee, and fiber

2) Zinc
Whereas non-vegetarian diets seem to enhance the absorption of zinc; vegetarian and vegan diets do the exact opposite; they inhibit it.

Nutritionists suggest that you can overcome this by consuming more foods that contain zinc, such as soybeans, cashews, and sunflower seeds while reducing your intake of inhibitors by washing vegetables and grains.

3) Calcium
While vegetarians can easily consume an adequate amount of calcium without any dietary additions, it is important that vegetarians avoid consuming certain foods that are high in oxalates, which inhibit calcium absorption.

Dietitians suggest that vegetarians do not consume spinach, beet greens, and swiss chard as the calcium component of a meal plan. While they are rich in calcium, they also contain high amounts of oxalates.

In addition to consuming those foods for calcium, vegetarians should also take advantage of other options, such as soy yogurt, tofu, beans, almonds, and calcium-fortified foods.

4) Vitamin B-12
Many vegetarians lack vitamin B-12; simply because it does not exist naturally in any non-animal forms. Vegetarians can seek out vitamin B-12 fortified foods, such as certain soymilks and cereals to supplement what they lack.

5) Protein
Corporate marketing is relentless in their drive to make protein an obsession and a great public concern, this is all profit driven. America is not protein starving, America is amongst the world leaders in protein rich diets, and are not among the world leaders in population physical health. Corporations have a legal responsibility to their share holders to maximize profits not maximize national health.

When planned adequately, a vegetarian diet cannot only make up for what it lacks from animal products, but it can far exceed the healthfulness of most non-vegetarian diets.

Although most vegetarians consume a considerable amount of protein, they often do not absorb as much as they would on a non-vegetarian diet. This is because plant proteins are considerably less digestible than animal proteins, which contain amino acid chains that are closer or identical to human amino acid chains.

Consuming animal proteins might yield close to a 1:1 absorption ratio, while consuming plant proteins, such as wheat, might only yield 50% of the amino acids needed to build a “complete protein” or a protein that can readily be assimilated into the human body.

In order for vegetarians to absorb a healthy amount of protein, they must consume a variety of plant proteins to form complete amino chains. By eating vegetables, legumes, seeds, nuts, fruits, and whole grains, vegetarians can increase the amount of complete proteins they create by combining a number of varieties of amino acid chains.

Vegetarians must also consume more foods that contain proteins because plant proteins are generally harder to digest. While a nutritional label may suggest that pasta has 5 grams of protein per serving; you may only be able to digest 2-3 grams of that protein, which means you must complement the pasta with other sources of protein.

If you feel that you are unable to properly balance your vegetarian diet there is help from the supermarket, in addition to natural sources of protein, there are “protein-fortified”, or foods artificially-infused with protein.

ie. “protein-fortified” pasta and bread.

Soymilk is also a good source of protein for vegetarians. Studies on isolated soy protein show that it can be absorbed nearly as well as animal proteins, yielding close to a 1:1 protein absorption ratio.

For non-vegan vegetarians, yogurt, milk, and eggs (which contain complete proteins) are all excellent sources of protein.

As a vegetarian you have a number of options to boost your protein intake, and you should consider taking advantage of all of them. You can diversify your food selections, drink more soy products, and eat “protein-fortified” breads and pasta.

The option in foods and more importantly the access to great food in America is overwhelming. Take advantage of this and start building your world-class healthy complete vegetarian diet.

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