As you pursue your vegetarian diet, you’ll encounter some fairly common (but not always recognized) pitfalls. Among these would be foods easy to “overdose” on: seeds and nuts, for one example, and/or starchy carbohydrates for another. You know, the bread and pasta products so many of us just love.
Sure, with no meat added
they're “vegetarian.” If you don’t pay attention, though, they can also
pad you out like a manatee! (Guess how I know this.) You can lose the
pounds, of course, but it’s terminally tedious to have to do so.
Watch out, too, for some
deficiencies that can befall vegetarians and vegans if we're not paying attention: vitamins
B-12 and D, protein, iron, certain minerals, Omega-3 oils, iodine...
Although exhaustive descriptions of these and other possibilities fall
outside the scope of this page, here are a few biggies to get you
Because Vitamin B-12 hangs out mainly in meat, seafood, milk products, poultry, and eggs, you’ll need to find other reliable sources if you plan to eliminate dairy from your diet. (Maybe you don't, but just in case.) One such source would be supplements; another, fortified foods such as dry cereals.
Why worry about this deficiency? For one thing, because it can lead to anemia—your body needs Vitamin B-12 to make red blood cells. Long-term B-12 deficiency can also lead to permanent nerve or neurological damage. To say the least, B-12 deficiency issues are Most Definitely not something to laugh off. So be sure to get yours.
Apparently, a surprising number of people now fail to get enough of this vitamin—particularly vegans, since many people depend upon fortified milk for it. If that’s you, reasonable substitutes might be fortified soymilk or a multivitamin. A talk with your doctor and/or a nutritionist might be wise, as well.
If you’re in direct sunlight a fair amount, you can possibly
meet your Vitamin D needs, but also watch out for over-exposure. No use
inviting wrinkles or skin cancer to the party, right?
Be aware, though, that your sunscreen may be blocking some of the Vitamin D you’d otherwise absorb. Your best bet (IMHO) is to have your Vitamin D levels tested from time to time.
If these reveal deficiencies, ask your doctor and/or nutritionist about appropriate remedies. Also worth noting is that, as we age, some of us absorb less Vitamin D than we may think.
Although many vegetarian/vegan foods have lots of iron, if you’re pregnant or still menstruating, you may want to check with a nutritionist or doctor about taking a supplement. BTW: leafy greens and certain kinds of beans are particularly high in iron, which can be absorbed even better in the presence of Vitamin C. Click here for a list of green and leafies…
Inhibitors include tea and coffee (bummer!), certain spices, a particular substance in whole grains, and the calcium in dairy products. “The reality is, however, that if you eat a reasonable mix of foods, inhibitors and enhancers of iron absorption offset each other…” (Suzanne Havala Hobbs, DrPH, Living Vegetarian for Dummies.) But do stay alert, as complacency while on a vegetarian diet can lead to places you may rather not go.
Although many dietitians believe that vegetarians get lots of Omega-6 through the foods they eat, we generally tend to get fewer Omega-3s. For vegetarians, good sources of the latter are certain sea vegetables, ground flaxseeds, walnuts, canola and walnut oils, and supplements made from microalgae.
The above nutrients are but a few you’ll need to stay aware of. Because others are important, as well, it really will pay to learn as much as you can about vegetarian nutrition. Your health and energy (not to mention your head of hair!) depend upon it. Plus, the information is readily available, so you just as well go for it, right?
Living Vegetarian the Easy Way
Copyright 2010-2023. Lynda Edwards. All rights reserved.