Planning Your Vegetarian Diet: 3 Vitamins Essential for Success

Planning Your Vegetarian Diet: 3 Vitamins Essential for Success

So You’ve Joined our Eco-friendly, Heart-healthy, Animal-loving Veggies-only Club. Welcome! Prioritize these 3 Common Vegetarian Vitamin Deficiencies So You Stay Healthy and Happy…

It seems that most everyone nowadays recognizes the powerful and positive health benefits of plant based diets:

  • Lower Blood Pressure
  • Lower risk of Cardiovascular Disease
  • Lower Risk for Type 2 Diabetes
  • Reduced Cancer Risk

Personally, I felt less sluggish and more energized after switching to a vegetarian diet – even my workouts felt easier!

However, there are some vitamins necessary for optimal health that aren’t always present in adequate amounts in plant-based vegetarian sources. 

The health consequences of not prioritizing these nutrients as a vegetarian can be long-lasting and painful, so make sure you check your labels to ensure you’re consuming adequate levels of essential vitamins!

Zinc

Zinc is a trace mineral that’s vital to your health. Its RDA is 11mg/day, with an upper limit of 40mg/day. While most critical during periods of rapid growth, Zinc is essential to over 100 enzyme reactions in your body. Zinc boosts your immune system and fights off disease, and makes proteins and DNA.

Many vegetarians find themselves deficient in Zinc because it’s mainly found in red meat, shellfish, dairy, and eggs. Symptoms of Zinc deficiency present as anemia, diarrhea, and slowed cognition. 

But not to fear – Zinc is also found abundantly in beans, seeds, nuts, whole grains, and even some vegetables! Cashews are a great source of Zinc for vegetarians, as are pumpkin seeds and peas.   

Warning! Many vegetarian sources of Zinc also contain phytates, which prevent the absorption of Zinc into your bloodstream. Luckily, Healthline reports you can increase Zinc’s bioavailability by “heating, sprouting, soaking, or fermenting plant sources.”

So give those beans a good soak before you throw them into a delicious stew – your body will thank you.

Calcium

We all know the importance of Calcium to bone formation and growth in our adolescence. Fewer people know how essential Calcium is for helping your muscles contract, blood clots, maintaining nerve impulses, and regulating heart rate. 

Even less known?

Dairy Cows aren't the only way to get in your calcium as a vegetarian!

Dairy isn’t your only way to hit your Recommended Daily Intake of Calcium!

The RDA for Calcium sits at 1000mg/day, with an upper limit of 2500mg/day. Low daily Calcium intake can lead to short-term deficiency symptoms like Hypocalcemia (low levels of Calcium in the bloodstream), causing cramps and muscle spasms in your hands and feet.

Long-term Calcium deficiencies can lead to Osteoporosis (bones become brittle and weak) and Osteomalacia (the bones grow soft).

At the end of the day, you don’t want to be Calcium deficient.

But if you’re incorporating enough leafy green vegetables into your vegetarian diet plan and sprinkling in some dried fruit or calcium-set tofu, you’re unlikely to experience negative health consequences any time soon. 

If you need additional supplementation, make sure you check the vitamins’ bioavailability. Not all supplements are created equal – you need adequate levels of Vitamin D to facilitate calcium absorption in your gut!

Vitamin B12

The vitamin infamous for vegetarians deficiency in it: B12. With an RDA of 2.4 micrograms/day and no upper limit, Vitamin B12 is important for the synthesis of DNA and the creation of new blood cells to repair tissues throughout your body. 

B12 deficiency symptoms present as anemia, fatigue, loss of balance, reduced cognition, and numbness in the extremities. 

Kind of a big deal, no?

Another bummer – it’s only found *naturally* in animal products like meat, fish, and eggs…  

But this is the 21st century – obstacles for previous generations of vegetarians no longer hold us back from aligning our lifestyles with our values while balancing our health.  

You can ensure you maintain adequate B12 levels by consuming fortified foods or adding supplements to your diet. Aim for 3 micrograms per day to make sure you consume enough that’s bioavailable. 

Because it’s only found in animal products, B12 must be prioritized when switching to a vegetarian diet. Adding in B-12 fortified nutritional yeast or B12-fortified non-dairy milk is a great way to get in your recommended daily amount of B12. 

Silk soy milk, Coconut Dream, and Tempt Hemp milk are all popular B12 Fortified options!

Supplements are another great choice – experts suggest going no higher than 10 micrograms/day, or 2000 microgram once per week.


Vegetarian Girl Eating A Slice of Watermelon.

There you go! And remember, if you consume a balanced vegetarian diet with a diverse range of foods, you probably won’t run into these deficiencies any time soon. Happy Hunting!

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