In many supermarkets, there are food aisles that are devoted to organic foods. This is due to the fact that many people are converting from meat-eaters to vegetarians. It is also becoming a more health-conscious society. The question that many prospective vegetarian may ask, “What are the benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle?”
According to research, it shows that vegetarians are more likely to be healthier than non-vegetarians and also live longer. Vegetarian people usually report cases of lower rates of coronary heart disease, hypertension (high-blood pressure), many types of cancer, and Type 2 diabetes.
Unlike having a non-vegetarian diet, a typical diet for vegetarians generally consist of the carbohydrates richness, omega-6 fatty acids, dietary fiber, folic acid, vitamins C and E, and carotenoids. It also contains the minerals potassium and magnesium, animal protein, cholesterol, and low saturated fat. But sometimes these diets can be low in zinc, protein, calcium, vitamin B12 and other types of nutrients.
Vegetarian Diet’s Benefits
One of the benefactors of a vegetarian diet is that according to one review is that vegetarians is more likely to have a lower body mass index, lower obesity risk, lower levels of blood cholesterol, lower homocysteine levels. These people also tend to have a lower blood pressure risk, and lower risk of Type 2 diabetes.
Deficiencies of Nutrients
There are some deficiencies that many vegetarians and vegans may face in terms of a proper diet. Vegetarian diets that are poorly planned may range from a lack of protein, iron, and zinc, vitamin B12 to having a deficient amount of omega-3 fatty acids to vitamin A, B2, D and iodine. Without a proper diet, people who are vegans may be deficient in vitamin B12 and calcium.
With a well-balanced diet, both vegetarian and vegan diets can be properly proportioned and are appropriate for every stage of life, such as infancy, childhood, adolescence, pregnancy, and lactation.
Types of Nutrient Deficiencies
The most common nutrient deficiencies among the vegetarians and vegans are protein, iron, zinc, vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, iodine, and riboflavin. Here are the explanations of each deficiency:
a.) Protein: Vegetarians can usually get enough of this intake of long as it is the substantial amount and a variety of foods that are included in the diet. According to the American Dietetic Association (ADA), it explains that “protein needs might be higher than the RDA in vegetarians whose dietary protein sources are mainly those that are less well digested, such as some cereals and legumes.”
b.) Iron: The only sources of heme iron are meat, fish, and poultry. Non-heme iron includes plant foods. A few more good examples of iron sources include eggs, legumes (such as beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils, and soy foods), and cereals. The American Dietetic Association states that while iron-deficiency is not more common among vegetarians, “vegetarian children had reduced levels of hemoglobin and iron compared to omnivores “due” to the absence of animal iron sources with high utilizability.”
c.) Zinc: In our society, there has not been a case reported that Western vegans and vegetarians suffered from any zinc deficiencies any more than meat-eaters. In contrast, in many whole grains and fiber with phylates many have negative effects with zinc absorption and a marginal zinc intake.
d.) Vitamin B12: This deficiency can lead to pernicious anemia, nerve degeneration and damage to the neurological system that is irreversible. Vitamin B12 is essential, especially for people over fifty years old, pregnant, and lactating women. It is important that vegetarians get a substantial amount of dairy products, eggs, B12-fortified foods (such as vegetable stock, veggie burger mixes, vegetable protein (textured), soy milks, vegetable and sunflower margarines, and breakfast cereals.)
e.) Omega-3 fatty acids: Although this type of oil may be beneficial, there is also been questions about the benefits of Omega 3 fats coming from plants. Nutritionists usually advise these people to eat fatty fish to get Omega 3 than to consume plant based varieties.
f.) Vitamin D: Vegans are very susceptible to this deficiency due to eating foods with a lack of vitamin D.
g.) Iodine: The British Journal of Nutrition states that is a “potential danger of (Iodine) deficiency disorders due to strict forms or vegetarian nutrition, especially when fruits and vegetables grown in soils, with low (Iodine) levels are ingested.”
h.) Riboflavin: In the American Dietetic Association statement, it says “Some studies have shown vegans to have lower intake of riboflavin, compared with non-vegetarians; however, clinical riboflavin deficiency has not been observed.”
From research, with a few exceptions, vegetarians as well as non-vegetarians must maintain an adequate amount of dietary supplements from various food sources to live a healthy lifestyle.