|Special Dietary Issues for Vegan and Vegetarians|
Special Dietary Issues for Vegan and Vegetarians
Do to the exclusion of some food groups from the diet, there are some key nutrients that may be hard for a vegetarian to receive from their diet. This is of a concern for vegetarians because if the body does not get enough nutrients then deficiencies and health problems will begin to occur. The following are the nutrients that vegetarians need to pay special attention to in their diets.
Iron is an essential nutrient used in the body to form hemoglobin, which is responsible for carrying oxygen to the body’s cells. There are two different types of iron heme (found in animal foods) and non-heme (found in plant-foods). The non-heme iron that vegetarians consume is harder for the body to absorb. One way that you can aid in the absorption of this non-heme iron is to eat foods rich in vitamin C with each meal.
Protein plays a key role in growth, the maintenance of body tissues, building red blood cells, and synthesizing
hormones. The most common source of complete proteins the body needs is animal products. Vegetarians can get complete proteins from a few sources such as soy, milk and eggs (if included in the diet). If there are no sources of complete proteins, vegetarians can still meet their daily recommended intake of protein (45 g for women & 55 g for men) by eating a variety of foods that contain incomplete proteins.
It used to be thought that in order to get all the necessary proteins needed in a day, but recently this has been debunked. It is important that you consume complementary proteins (that is proteins that are by themselves incomplete but when mixed with other incomplete proteins become complete) throughout the day, but you do not need to mix certain foods together at meals to achieve this. By eating a variety of protein rich fruits and vegetables throughout the day you are sure to get all the complementary proteins you need to make up the necessary proteins for your body.
Calcium is also involved in normal blood clotting, muscle and nerve functioning, and hormone and enzyme secretion. The main source of calcium in the U.S. comes from the consumption of dairy products. If you exclude or limit dairy products in your diet you will have to turn to plant sources and calcium fortified foods in order to get the needed amount of calcium. It is recommended that adults intake about 1300 mg of calcium each day.
Vitamin B-12 is needed by the body for normal red blood cell formation, makings DNA, and nerve function. The problem for most vegetarians is that this nutrient is only found in animal foods. Vegetarians who consume dairy products do not need to worry because they will get enough vitamin B-12 from these sources. Other vegetarians and vegans need to include products that are fortified with vitamin B-12 in their diet daily
Zinc is important for growth, tissue repair, and energy production. The main place that zinc is found is dairy products and eggs. For individuals who exclude dairy and egg products from their diet, some sources of zinc may include: bran, legumes, tofu, seeds, nuts, wheat germ, zinc-fortified cereals, lentils, and green vegetables. Caution must be used when taking supplements that contain zinc, because if they contain more than 100% of the RDA there is a risk of toxicity.
Vitamin D plays a major role in the absorption of calcium from the digestive tract as well as incorporating calcium into our bones and teeth. There are few actual foods that contain significant amounts of vitamin D. The main sources are fortified milk, egg yolks, and liver. Vegetarians and vegans who do not consume these products can get vitamin D from fortified soy milk products and sun exposure. Direct exposure to the sun activates your body to make its own vitamin D, but there are other risks involved with too much sun exposure.