(ORDO NEWS) — Vegan and vegetarian diets are definitely trendy and more people than ever before are switching to them. While some people choose a plant-based diet for environmental reasons, others switch to it for the health benefits.
This is not surprising since studies have shown that vegetarian and vegan diets are associated with a lower body mass index (BMI) and a lower risk of certain diseases, including cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
But while plant-based diets can have many health benefits, they can also lead to nutrient deficiencies. According to one study, about 28 percent of vegans and 13 percent of vegetarians are deficient in one or more nutrients.
This is because many plant-based diets do not contain high levels of certain nutrients such as vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acids, iodine, calcium, selenium, iron and zinc.
Research shows that veganism in particular is associated with significantly lower intakes of vitamin B12 and calcium – especially in people not taking any vitamin supplements. This group also has low intakes of selenium, zinc, vitamin D and iodine.
Although a vegetarian diet may contain slightly more amino acids, B12, calcium, and protein compared to a vegan diet, intake may still be lower than an omnivorous diet.
Vitamins and minerals are important for good health. For example, vitamin B12 is important for brain function and the production of red blood cells. But our bodies don’t naturally produce many important vitamins and minerals (including vitamin B12, iron, selenium, and iodine), so we need to get them from the foods we eat.
But insufficient intake of these important vitamins and minerals can lead to deficiency. This can have a range of side effects, including excessive fatigue and mental fog. If left untreated, over time it can lead to serious nerve, skeletal and circulatory disorders.
If you’re thinking about switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet, here are a few things to keep in mind to avoid vitamin deficiencies:
– Seek advice from a specialist to help you plan your diet and ensure you get all the nutrients you need, especially if you’re switching from a vegetarian to a vegan diet, if you’re pregnant or could become pregnant, or if you’re over 60.
– Focus on nutrients. Try to choose plant-based foods that are fortified with important vitamins and minerals, or foods that are naturally rich in important nutrients. For example, Brazil nuts are rich in selenium and seaweed is a good source of vitamin B12 and iodine.
Eat a variety of foods. This is especially important when it comes to the plant-based proteins you eat to make sure you get all the essential amino acids in your body. Some foods containing these acids include lentils, legumes, beans, soybeans, tofu, nuts, and seeds.
– Combine certain nutrients. Some nutrients can help others absorb better in the body. For example, vitamin C can increase iron absorption. Vitamin B12 supplements should also be taken with food to make it easier for the body to absorb.
– Watch your health. If you start to experience fatigue, memory problems, or even a bad mood, it could be a sign of a vitamin deficiency. Be sure to check with your doctor before taking any supplements to make sure you are taking the right supplements.
– If you must use a vitamin supplement, be sure to look for GMP-labeled supplements as they contain the correct nutrients. However, long-term use of supplements can have its drawbacks, such as being expensive or interacting with certain medications.
– There is also the danger of over-supplementing, which can lead to the accumulation of certain non-metabolized nutrients in the body. It is currently unknown how common this is and what the long-term effects may be. For all of these reasons, it is important to consult with a physician before taking any supplements.
A well-planned, plant-based diet can be good for both your health and the planet. But it’s important to keep track of what foods and nutrients you eat to avoid deficiencies in key nutrients.
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