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A Meat Free Diet with No Vitamin Deficiencies
By Journalist Volunteer Lily Treacher
There is a common misconception that a vegetarian or vegan diet cannot provide an individual with the necessary vitamins that he or she requires in order to remain healthy. However this is a fallacy, as all of the substances that the human body needs are present in meat-free foodstuffs. Certain nutrients are harder to come by but it is still possible to maintain a diet that includes them. Some people believe that vegetarians are iron-deficient. This may be true of some non-carnivores but those who are in the know can make sure that they get enough iron by consuming teff, aramanth, white beans, quinoa, dried fruits and chickpeas, as they are all rich sources of this mineral. Most people have access to two types of iron: heme and non-heme. However only non-heme iron is present in vegan foods and it is more difficult for the body to absorb. This means that vegans should be especially careful to maintain an iron-rich diet and avoid drinking tea with their meals, as doing so decreases the absorption of non-heme iron by sixty-two percent.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids and Calcium
Another way that vegans can ensure they get the necessary nutrients from a vegetarian diet is to opt for foods containing flax seeds. These tasty seeds contain omega 3 fatty acids, which help the body to fight infection and inflammation. You can also avoid omega 3 deficiency by consuming salba, chia and walnuts. It is important to make sure that you consume an adequate amount of calcium as well, as if you don’t get enough of this mineral, you can suffer from poor bone density, which can lead to broken and fractured bones. Broccoli, soya beans, bok choy, tahini, rice milk, okra, almonds, tempeh and mustard greens are all rich in this nutrient.
There is no evidence that vegans run the risk of suffering from zinc deficiency any more than anybody else does but it is needed for over fifty enzymes, meaning that a lot of physiological processes depend on it so it is advisable to ensure that you get enough of it. Plant-based sources of it include tofu, tahini, beans, Swiss chard, lentils, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, wholegrains and nuts. A single serving of these foodstuffs contains between two and five milligrams and the recommended daily intake is thirty milligrams. It is important to make sure that you consume at least fifteen milligrams.
One of the most common fallacies that people believe about vegetarians is that they are all lacking in protein. In reality, protein is found in a wealth of different vegetarian foods. Quinoa is one of the best sources of protein, as it contains all the essential amino acids, which makes it a ‘complete protein’. Beans, lentils, tofu and tempeh are also sources of protein that vegetarians can eat.
Vitamin B12 is one of the most widespread deficiencies that vegetarians and vegans who fail to maintain a proper diet suffer from. The best way for non-meat-eaters to get enough of it is to take supplements. It is also included in products such as milks and breakfast cereals that are fortified with it but large quantities of these foods would be required in order to reach the RDA. Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency can include memory loss, disorientation, depression, difficulty walking, numbness and tingling in toes and fingers, diarrhoea, bleeding gums, rapid breathing and heartbeat and tiredness, weakness or light-headedness.
A Meat-Free Life Can be a Healthy Life
Although it is more difficult for vegans and vegetarians to maintain healthy levels of some vitamins and minerals, it is still possible if the individuals consume the correct foodstuffs in the right quantities. Non-meat-eaters can remain in the best possible condition without suffering from any deficiencies by paying special attention to the foods that they eat and making sure that they properly structure their meals to cater for their lifestyle choices. The human body is perfectly capable of going without meat; it simply requires a few tweaks in your diet here and there. Ensure that you are familiar with which foods contain which vitamins and minerals and you will be at the peak of health whilst still continuing to live your life in an ethical manner.