By Muscle Media
Both vegetarian and non-vegetarian diets have advantages. Diets of vegetarians 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 vitamin B-12. Your own nutrition should be a reflection of your specific goals. However, if you’ve already adopted a vegetarian diet, you need to increase your intake and absorption of these nutrients to avoid short and long-term health complications. Here are some nutrients that your diet may lack, and how you can acquire more of these nutrients:
Different combinations of amino acid chains make up different types of protein. In order to create a “complete protein” or a protein that can be assimilated as muscle tissue, you must consume foods containing complementary chains of amino acids. Wheat, nuts, and beans are three types of vegan-friendly incomplete proteins. However, wheat is extremely hard to digest, and up to 50% of its’ protein is lost during the process. Isolated soy protein, that you can get from a number of sources (including soy milk), can be digested sufficiently to match typical animal proteins.
Plant sources contain a significant amount of iron, but in non-heme form. This for is more sensitive to metabolic inhibitors than the iron available from animal products. You should do two things to increase your blood-iron levels: a.) consume more plant iron; and b.) avoid absorption inhibitors, such as tea, coffee, and fiber.
Non-vegetarian diets seem to enhance the absorption of zinc, but vegetarian and vegan diets inhibit it. Nutritionists suggest that you can overcome this by consuming more foods that contain zinc. Soybeans, cashews, and sunflower seeds are excellent sources of zinc. Also, reduce your intake of inhibitors by washing vegetables and grains.
While vegetarians can easily consume adequate amounts of calcium without any dietary additions, it’s important to avoid consuming foods that are high in oxalates, which inhibit calcium absorption. Dietitians suggest that vegetarians avoid 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. Rather than consuming these foods for calcium, vegetarians should consider soy yogurt, tofu, beans, almonds, and calcium fortified foods.
Many vegetarians lack vitamin B-12 simply because it does not exist naturally in non-animal forms. Vegetarians should seek out vitamin B-12 fortified foods, such as soy milks, cereals, and vitamin supplements to compensate for what they lack.
There are a number of essential nutrients that vegetarians can lack if they don’t research and plan. This is not meant to discourage you from becoming a vegetarian. You need to spend time planning a healthy approach to your vegetarian diet before beginning. When properly planned, a vegetarian diet can make up for what it lacks from animal products and match the healthfulness of most non-vegetarian diets.