While vegetarian diets are usually packed with life-enhancing ingredients like antioxidants, fiber, vitamin C, folic acid, and vitamin E, potassium, and magnesium, they’re typically lacking in certain areas as well.
To be sure that you’re making the most of your vegetarian diet, it’s important for you to supplement your lifestyle with the appropriate ingredients which don’t necessarily have to come from animal sources. The following list of ingredients are some of the most important and common ingredients that vegetarians are missing out on.
Missing Vegetarian Diet Ingredient #1. Zinc
Zinc is a powerful trace element that most people supplement with when they are feeling ill. But, in order for your body and immune system to perform at its best, it’s important to make sure that you’re always getting a moderate amount of zinc in your diet. Ensuring that you’re getting enough zinc with your vegetarian diet is especially important, since vegans and vegetarians are normally considered the most “at risk” groups to have a zinc deficiency.
While zinc is most readily available in animal sources, zinc is also commonly found in nuts, whole grains, and commercial lozenges or supplements. Getting enough zinc in your diet (at least 8-11 mg/day) will help to regulate your hormone production, ability to heal wounds, digestion, and more.
Missing Vegetarian Diet Ingredient #2. Iron
Iron is a vital ingredient that is commonly found in spinach, red meat, seafood, poultry, beans and dried fruit. As you can probably tell, it’s an abundant ingredient that doesn’t appear to be challenging to get in one’s diet. But, iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency that Americans face, so something isn’t working when it comes to the mainstream American diet.
The biggest issue that many vegetarians face with iron is that plant-based iron sources are two to three times less potent than the iron from animal sources. Because it’s harder for vegetarians to get iron from dark leafy greens (like kale or spinach) and beans (kidney, pinto, lentils) – you should supplement your food with vitamin C, which aids in iron absorption.
Missing Vegetarian Diet Ingredient #3. Vitamin D
While getting enough natural sunlight throughout the day is one of the best ways to ensure that your body is producing vitamin D, it still may be hard for vegetarians to meet the minimal vitamin D requirements, since it’s normally only found in trace amounts in plants. Vitamin D is crucial for maintaining strong bone health and healthy brain function, so vegetarians and vegans almost always need to target this vitamin.
Fatty fish is one of the most common natural sources of vitamin D, although vegetarians aren’t always OK with eating tuna or salmon. So, vegetarians can easily get more vitamin D in their diet by eating foods that have been fortified with vitamin D, or supplementing with vitamin D directly.
Missing Vegetarian Diet Ingredient #4. Omega-3 Fatty Acids (EPA & DHA)
Omega-3 fatty acids are the heart-healthy ingredients that are also referred to as EPA and DHA. Getting a healthy dose of omega-3’s in your diet has been shown to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, limit inflammation, and ward off arthritis. Most people are able to acquire an abundance of omega-3’s through eating something of a Mediterranean diet consisting of fish and olive oil. However, fish obviously doesn’t work for many vegetarian diets, but there still are multiple vegetarian-friendly ways to get omega-3’s in your diet.
To put your heart on the right path with Omega-3 fatty acids, you’ll want to take advantage of vegetarian-friendly foods like walnuts, brazil nuts, cashews, chia seeds, and hemp seeds. And, while some leafy greens like kale and spinach contain some omega-3’s, they don’t contain EPA and DHA omega-3’s (which are known to be the most effective omega-3’s). So, supplementing with various nuts and oils is a vegetarian’s best bet for balancing your level of omega-3 fatty acids.
Missing Vegetarian Diet Ingredient #5. Cholesterol
Many people still assume that all cholesterol is bad for you. However, there also comes a point when people stumble upon the dual-sided nature of cholesterol. This is when most people typically come to find that there’s good cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein cholesterol or “HDL”) and bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein cholesterol or “LDL”).
Luckily for vegetarians, most of the bad cholesterol in the world can be avoided by not eating meats, dairy, and deep-fried goods. This is good news, since too much bad cholesterol can clog your arteries and lead to heart complications or strokes.
However, to make sure that you’re getting enough good cholesterol in your diet, or HDL, you’ll have to make sure that you’re getting olive oil, black beans, and high-fiber fruits like prunes in your system. This combination of heart-healthy ingredients will help to balance your healthy cholesterol levels with your bad cholesterol.
Missing Vegetarian Diet Ingredient #6. Protein
While it is somewhat of a myth that getting enough protein in a vegetarian diet is difficult, it is still common for vegetarians to be lacking protein in their diet. This tends to happen when vegetarians prioritize eating leafy greens and fruits over protein-packed foods like sprouted beans, lentils and quinoa. Some professional athletes even eat diets consisting mostly of vegetarian-friendly foods, so this is one nutrient that vegetarians can easily make up for.
To make sure that your body is getting enough protein, which helps to build muscle mass and physical strength, try to focus on eating more nuts and beans throughout the day. You can also supplement with whey protein if your vegetarian diet allows it (whey protein is essentially dried cow’s milk), or take amino acids which are considered to be the “building blocks” of protein.
Missing Vegetarian Diet Ingredient #7. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that helps to regulate one’s DNA synthesis, nerve functions, and red blood cells. It’s powerful food that your brain needs to stay sharp and retain focus throughout the day. This is also a tricky ingredient for vegetarians to stay on top of, since it’s most commonly found in red meat, poultry, fish, and eggs. There are very few plant-based sources containing B12 to fit your lifestyle.
The good news is that supplementing with vitamin B12 has become extremely common in recent years. Many foods and beverages are now fortified with vitamin B12 so that the average shopper can at least get some portion of vitamin B12 in their everyday diet. Purchasing a food-based vitamin B complex supplement is another great way to ensure that you’re getting enough vitamin B12 to help your brain carry out its daily functions.
If you follow a vegetarian diet, then you’re obviously a conscientious eater who is extremely careful about what goes into your body.
We created the Eat What app to help people enjoy the lifestyle that they want to live without having to worry about getting unfamiliar chemicals, preservatives, allergens, or any other unwanted food ingredients in one’s diet.Eat What makes it easy for you to enjoy the diet that you want to maintain by providing you with the opportunity to keep a nutritional knowledge bank on your iPhone or Android mobile device.
After installing Eat What, you’ll be able to scan food products as you shop, or quickly reference food ingredients in seconds. Eat What gives you a complete breakdown of whether any particular food ingredient that you look up is good, bad, or somewhere in-between. It also shows you whether ingredients may affect a diet that you may follow, such a vegetarian or vegan diet.