Vegetarian nutrition has its plusses and minuses. Both vegetarian and non-vegetarian diets have advantages. Vegetarian diets tend to be rich in antioxidants, certain vitamins, and healthy fats. Diets that include meat, by contrast, tend to contain more protein, iron, zinc, calcium, and vitamin B-12.
If you already decided to adopt a vegetarian diet, it is essential you learn how to increase your intake
and absorption of these nutrients to avoid short-term and long-term health complications.
Here’s some ways you can be sure you’re getting a good supply of necessary nutrients to keep you healthy.
Different types of protein are made up of different permutations of amino acid chains.
In order to create a "complete protein" or a protein that can be assimilated into the human
body as tissue, you must consume foods that contain complementary chains of amino acids.
Wheat, nuts, and beans are three types of vegetarian food that have proteins but not complete. Plus, wheat is hard to digest and up to 50% of its protein is lost during the process.
Isolated soy protein, which you can get from a number of sources (including soy milk), can be digested
efficiently-enough to match the animal protein yields. Just keep in mind that soy isn’t the answer to a vegetarian’s prayers. It shouldn’t be relied upon as a main source of protein.
Plant sources contain a significant amount of iron, but in non-heme form. Heme iron is primarily found in red meats and is the most easily absorbed. Other forms of iron are bound to some other organic constituent of vegetarian food. The the iron found in plants is difficult to absorb but cooking tends to break these interactions and increase iron availability. You should do two things to increase your blood-iron levels: 1) consume more plant iron; and 2) avoid absorption inhibitors such as tea, coffee, and fiber.
Some iron-rich foods are poor sources of the mineral because other compounds render it nonabsorbable. The classic example is spinach. It contains iron, but it also contains considerable oxalate, which chelates it and renders it nonabsorbable. Phytates, present in whole grains that have not been subjected to fermentation by yeast (for example, during bread making), have a similar effect.
Whereas non-vegetarian diets seem to enhance the absorption of zinc; vegetarian and vegan diets do the exact opposite – they inhibit it. Nutritionists suggest that you can overcome this by consuming more foods that contain zinc, such as soybeans, cashews, and sunflower seeds while reducing your intake of inhibitors by washing vegetables and grains.
Vegetarians can easily consume an adequate amount of calcium without any dietary
additions. It is important that vegetarians avoid consuming certain foods that are high in oxalate,
which inhibit calcium absorption.
Dietitians suggest that vegetarians do not consume spinach, beet greens, and swiss chard as the calcium component of a meal plan. While they are rich in calcium, they also contain high amounts of
Rather than consuming those foods for calcium, vegetarians should consider other options, such as
soy yogurt, tofu, beans, almonds, and calcium-fortified foods.
5. Vitamin B-12
Many vegetarians lack vitamin B-12 simply because it does not exist naturally in any non-animal forms. Vegetarians should seek out vitamin B-12 fortified foods, such as certain soy milks and cereals to supplement what they lack.
This is not meant to discourage people from becoming vegetarians, but instead to encourage them to spend time planning a health approach to their vegetarian diet before starting it. When planned adequately, vegetarian nutrition can not only make up for what it lacks from animal products, but it can far exceed the healthfulness of most non-vegetarian diets.