Basics About Vegetarian and Vegan Nutrition

Eating vegetarian (eating pure vegetarian foods only and no food of animal origin is called vegan diet) is gaining popularity throughout the world. If you decide to eat only vegetarian food or food of plant origin, you should have clear ideas about the benefits of vegan diet as well as possible nutritional deficiencies associated with eating vegan diet. Eating well planned vegetarian and vegan diet can supply adequate nutritional need to all groups of individuals (adults, children, pregnant women, elderly individuals, infants as well as adolescents).ID-100434785

Scientific evidence suggest that vegetarians and vegans are at lower risk of various serious medical conditions such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, osteoporosis etc.

Benefits of vegetarian and vegan diet:

As mentioned above vegetarian and vegan diet reduce risk of various serious medical conditions (coronary heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, osteoporosis etc.). Plant based foods are rich in dietary fiber, omega fatty acids, carotenoids, most vitamins and minerals as well as trace minerals. Vegetarians and vegans usually do not suffer from constipation, which is such as common problem with Western diet. There are various studies which proves that eating plant based foods reduce risk of certain cancers too. There are various health hazards associated with regular eating of red meat and vegans and vegetarians avoid these negative health problems. This is another benefit of eating vegetarian/vegan.

Problems associated with vegetarian and vegan diet:

Vegetarian, especially vegan diet eaters can potentially suffer from various nutritional deficiencies, especially if it is not well planned, such as

  • Iron: iron deficiency and anemia as a result can occur among vegans, because iron present in plant foods is not absorbed easily as it need to be reduced before absorption and as a result lesser percentage of iron is absorbed from vegan diet compare to diet containing animal foods. However, with proper planning it can be easily overcome.
  • Protein: plant based proteins are biologically incomplete, i.e. they do not contain all the essential amino acids. However, this can also be easily overcome by providing protein from two or more sources, such as eating various protein rich plant foods such as rice, wheat, pulses, pea, soy, maize etc. No single plant protein contain all essential amino acids, however, one can easily compliment for another. To make sure that one get adequate protein, one need to eat variety of foods including protein rich foods.
  • Vitamin B12: this is another important nutrient a vegan must be careful about. No plant based food contain vitamin B12. Deficiency of vitamin B12 leads to megaloblastic anemia and permanent nerve damage if not corrected. Hence, vegans must take vitamin B12 supplement and vegetarians must eat certain foods with rich vitamin B12 such as eggs, yogurt regularly.
  • Vitamin D: the problem of low vitamin D is present for all persons whether they eat vegan or non-vegetarian diet, if proper planning is not there. Exposure to sun regularly one can synthesize enough vitamin D in skin.
  • Omega-3-fatty acids: vegan diet should contain nuts (walnut, almonds) as well as various oils (flax seeds and oil, olive oil etc.) in its diet to prevent deficiency of omega-3-fatty acids.

Proper planning of your diet with vegan foods can easily overcome most of the above listed potential nutritional deficiencies a vegan may suffer. Hence, do not worry and become a vegan/vegetarian, but plan your diet well.

 

Image courtesy of [ongpimkot] at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

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