Vegetarianism: What’s the Risk?
Before I became a vegetarian, a couple of my main concerns were:
1) being bored with what I was eating
2) ONLY eating fruits & veggies was somewhat unhealthy
Well, I definitely didn’t fall subject to #1 with all the recipes that I’ve been finding and food experimentation that I’ve been able to do! I did however have to do a bit of research to ensure that I wasn’t going to adopt a lifestyle I wasn’t able to maintain or even worse, a unhealthy lifestyle. I did a little digging to find the health benefits & potential risks of becoming a vegetarian. I touched on this slightly in my Vitamin V post but here’s what you need to know:
** Please note that it’s always best to consult with a trained medical professional to create a nutritional plan that works for you – I’m just sharing info that has worked for me and provided a great starting point in answering my common vegetarian questions!**
1. Possible Nutritional Deficiencies:
Many vegetarians and vegans can fall subject to the lack of ENOUGH protein, calcium, B12 and iron incorporated into their diet. Since some of these nutrients can be found in a natural meat diet ( with moderation of course) those on a strict vegetable diet have to find alternative ways to integrate these essentials into their daily meal regiment.
Protein is used by the body for enzymes, hormones and structural tissue. Protein depletes in the body at a slow but steady rate and must be replaced, typically by our food. After being digested, proteins give us a new supply of amino acids from which our body uses to continuously replenish & rebuild itself. A severe lack of protein can lead to Arthritis, heart problems, gallstones and muscle deterioration.
Vegetarian and/or vegan foods that are high in protein include:
- Soy beans
- Black beans
- Kidney beans
- Lentil beans
- Whole Grains
- Brown rice
- Whole wheat bread
- Quinoa ( which is actually a seed related to spinach)
- Almonds ( my favorite!)
- Raw vegetable foods
- Soy & Meat-like products ( which I have in moderation due to the specifications of my diet)
Calcium is an integral part of a diet and promotes strong bones, enables the functionality of vital organs (kidney, heart, nerves, etc.) and good teeth. A lack of calcium deficiency can occur more with vegans and total vegetarians due to the stricter diet. A diet with great lack of calcium can be a leading cause for osteoporosis.
Here are vegetarian and/or vegan friendly foods that are high in calcium:
- Collard greens
- Dried Herbs
Vitamin B12, a part of the B vitamin family, is an essential element in the process in which energy is produced from fats, proteins and carbohydrates, and it is necessary for the metabolization of cells. The body needs vitamin B12 to keep its nerve cells and red blood cells healthy, as well as to generate DNA. Without the adequate consumption of B12, anaemia can occur. This is when you don’t have enough red blood cells thus making it difficult for your blood to carry oxygen, causing fatigue and paleness of the skin amongst other conditions.
Foods that are rich in B12 vitamins include:
- Fortified foods with high B12 content
- Select cereals
- Select oatmeal
- B12 supplement
Iron-rich foods vegetarian and/or vegan foods include:
- Iron enriched cereals
- dark green, leafy vegetables