Top 5 Nutrients Vegetarians Need

February 26, 2017

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 Top 5 Nutrients Vegetarians Need
There are various reasons why one would choose to eat a vegetarian diet. However, in order for a strict vegetarian diet to be healthy, you have to do it right. Vegetarians and vegans are at risk for certain nutrient deficiencies because meat and animal products provide good nutrition. If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, look out for these nutrient deficiencies and make sure you supplement your diet with high quality nutrients!

1. Protein – One of the obvious nutrient deficiencies to look out for in a vegetarian and especially a vegan diet is protein. Often the main sources of protein in a diet void of animal products are plant sources like soy, beans, lentils and quinoa. Legumes and protein grains are good to include in your diet, however, may not provide enough protein for your needs. We recommend avoiding soy entirely, as it can slow the metabolism and disrupt hormones.

Also, proteins provide the body with amino acids, the building blocks of body structure. There are nine essential amino acids that we can only get from our diet. Animal protein provides all of these nine essential amino acids, while plant sources of protein only provide some. Whey protein powder from grass fed cow's milk is a good option for vegetarians. As a complete protein, it provides all nine of the essential amino acids and is high in the branched chain amino acid Leucine, making it a good option for muscle growth. It makes a filling breakfast smoothie and an excellent post-workout shake.

2. Iron – Iron comes in two forms. Our bodies absorb and use the type of iron found in red meat and animal proteins the best. Elemental and non-heme sources of iron are available to vegetarians from cast iron skillets, dark green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, legumes, and some grains. Vitamin C enhances the absorption and bioavailability of non-heme iron, so vegetarians should be sure to consume enough foods rich in vitamin C like tomatoes or citrus.

For menstruating women and athletes especially, a vegetarian diet simply may not provide enough to cover daily iron requirements. Supplementation is very helpful in this case, but be careful to choose the right iron supplement. Blood Booster is an iron supplement that contains iron bisglycinate, a vegetarian source of iron that is superior to other forms of iron. It is better absorbed by your cells and won’t come apart in the digestive tract and cause free-radical damage, nausea, and constipation. It also contains vitamin C to enhance absorption of the iron as well as folate and coenzyme B6 and B12 for energy, mood, and blood cell health. In comparison, ferrous sulfate iron is a low quality form of iron supplement that does not absorb well and can cause digestive upset.

3. Zinc – Zinc is essential for immunity, thyroid, skin, hormone production and more. Unfortunately, zinc deficiency is believed to negatively impact over 2 billion people worldwide and vegetarians and vegans are among the group of those most at risk. The best sources of zinc are found in seafood, animal meat and liver. Even some seemingly healthy foods are grown in soil that is depleted of zinc and other essential minerals.

Signs of low zinc to look out for include brittle nails, white spots on the fingernails, body odor, hair loss, fatigue, low sex drive, and adult acne. Strict vegetarians and vegans should consider supplementing with a high quality zinc supplement, like Strengthener Plus, that also contains copper which needs to be in balance with zinc. Women should take up to 50 mg of zinc per day and men up to 75 mg per day. Zinc requirements may be up to 50% greater for strict vegetarians whose major food staples are grains and legumes due to high levels of phytic acid in these foods, which reduces zinc absorption.

4. Vitamin B12 – Our bodies don’t make vitamin B12, so we need to get it from food or supplements. Unfortunately, there are very few plant sources of B12 without fortification. Plus, stress, caffeine, alcohol, sugar, digestive problems, and numerous medications deplete B vitamins, making a B12 deficiency even more likely. The B vitamins work together, so when supplementing, they are best taken together. Take a B complex or a well-formulated multiple vitamin that provides all the B vitamins in their coenzyme forms.

There are huge quality differences among B vitamins. Vitamin B12 is one of the most expensive raw materials, so companies will often use the cheap cyanocobalamin form. Cyanocobalamin releases a molecule of cyanide when metabolized and causes your body to use extra energy detoxifying. Instead, look for coenzyme forms of B12 like methylcobalamin and adenosylcobalamin which will give you an energy boost you can really feel.

5. Fish Oil – Vegetarians who abstain from eating fish should absolutely be taking a fish oil supplement. Fish oil contains DHA, the most biologically useful omega-3 fatty acid. DHA is essential for brain health, eyesight, cardiovascular health, and more. DHA is found in fish and grass-fed animal meat. Plant-based omega-3 oils called α-linolenic acid (ALA) can be converted to DHA by your body; however, this process is inefficient. Research shows that ALA is made into DHA at only a 2 – 5 percent rate, making it an inferior source of omega-3 oils for cardiovascular and brain health.

Omega-6 oils, which are plentiful in the American diet, must be balanced with omega-3 fatty acids. Adding a fish oil supplement will help to correct the ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and reduce inflammation. Don’t take any fish oil supplement, though. Only supplement with fish oil that is molecularly distilled to remove mercury, PCB’s and other fat-soluble toxins. Even a small amount of mercury is toxic to your brain.

If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, supplementing with these nutrients can help to fill in some common nutritional gaps. Be sure to read labels and look for quality supplements. A vegetarian diet can be a healthy option, but make sure you do it right.

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