There’s Vegetarian. And there’s Vegan. Related, yet different. Both diets eliminate meat, fish, and poultry. Vegans don’t eat any dairy, eggs, or other products derived from animals. Sub-types of vegetarianism, however, make exceptions for certain animal products:
- Lacto-ovo-vegetarians eat both dairy products and eggs.
- Lacto-vegetarians eat dairy products but avoid eggs.
- Ovo-vegetarians eat eggs but not dairy products.
TIPS FOR GOING VEGETARIAN
Whatever your reason for choosing this dietary path – your health, concerns for the environment, or for spiritual reasons (or a combination of these reasons) – be aware of common mistakes that can adversely affect your health. Understanding these pitfalls can help you maintain a nutritionally sound vegan or vegetarian diet.
Consuming Too Much Fruit Sugar
Fruit is an important part of any healthy diet, but consuming too much fruit sugar on a daily basis can have a detrimental effect on blood sugar. Also, fruits alone fail to provide the diversity of nutrients a body needs to thrive. Balance fruit intake with veggies, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains (if not grain-free).
Lacking Dietary Variety
Being a creature of habit, or being afraid to try new foods or recipes, can leave your diet deficient in nutrients, and your taste buds in a sorry state. You’ll have food cravings, hunger pains, and might just give up on vegetarianism. Follow those famous Dr. Seuss characters’ advice: Try New Things; You Might Like Them!
Tipping The Carb Scale In The Wrong Direction
With so many convenience foods for vegetarians, it’s easy to get tricked into thinking you’re making a healthy choice by selecting “fortified with (fill in the blank)” products over fresh foods. Many of those products are loaded with hidden sugars and sodium. Get complex carbs and grains from whole, organic food sources such as millet (if not grain-free) and flax. Buy dried berries and nuts without added sugar or salt.
Mismanaging Your Protein
Folks new to vegetarianism don’t properly combine foods to provide sufficient amounts of complete protein for their age and activity level. Many people wind up relying on protein shakes, which is not the ideal way to obtain protein. Most of your protein should come from whole, real, fresh foods. An integrative health practitioner can help you establish good, flavorful meal planning strategies.
Both vegetarians and vegans need to pay attention to the intake of nutrients lost by omitting meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. As noted above, “fortified with” foods aren’t the best because the nutrients aren’t in the most bioavailable state for the body to utilize. The nutrients most commonly lacking in vegan/vegetarian diets are:
- B vitamins, particularly B12 and B6
- Iron, Zinc and Selenium
To track your nutritional intake, try this awesome program: cronometer.com. It has both free and paid account options. To understand your nutrient needs and assess risk for deficiency, see an integrative health doctor for a nutrient assessment test. This simple blood test indicates if deficiencies are present and need to be corrected, as well as how to best support already good health with the right dose and type of supplements for you.
MAY THE FORCE ‘B’ WITH YOU, VEGETARIAN!
Vegetarianism has many health advantages, but a poorly designed diet poses significant health risks. Research shows that vegetarians (and vegans) are vulnerable to deficiencies in two important B vitamins: B12 (cobalamin) and B6 (pyridoxine).
If ever a group of vitamins could be considered “the Force” within you, it’s the B-Complex group, which synergistically supports energy production. Individually, each B vitamin – B1 (thiamin), B2(riboflavin), (niacin B3), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6, B12, biotin, and folate are vital to different physiological processes throughout the body. Specifically, B12 is essential for healthy nerve cell communication while B6 is necessary for hormone regulation and breaking down dietary fat, protein, and carbohydrates.
It’s difficult to obtain sufficient, high-quality amounts of food-based B6 and B12 when meat, fish, eggs, and dairy are eliminated. B12 is not present in plants, so vegetarians usually need to take a supplement. Some plants contain a “glycosolated form” of B6 that is not absorbed easily or used efficiently in the body. The aging process, a vegan diet, stress, certain medications, and illness also can alter your body’s ability to utilize vitamins taken from food.
Signs of B12 deficiency include extreme fatigue, sadness, irritability, loss of appetite, anemia, lower immunity, and increased risk for heart disease. B6 deficiency is associated with PMS, depression, and insomnia; it can lead to nerve damage in the hands and feet, which is usually reversible with proper supplementation.
An integrative health practitioner can order a blood test to determine if a vitamin deficiency exists and work with you to identify the appropriate supplement (e.g., vitamins), form of that supplement and dietary improvements for your health needs.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE TIPS FOR GOING VEGETARIAN? SHARE IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!
USNewsHealth.com “Health Buzz: How You Can Ease Into a Vegan Diet.” Posted by David Oliver (31 May 2018) Accessed 12 June 2018: https://health-usnews-com.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/health.usnews.com/wellness/health-buzz/articles/2018-05-31/how-you-can-ease-into-a-vegan-diet?context=amp
The Vegetarian Society. https://www.vegsoc.org/
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Vudhival, N., Ali, A., et al., “Vitamin B1, B2 and B6 status of vegetarians.” J Med Assoc Thai. (1991 Oct_74:10, pp. 465-70. Accessed 12 June 2018: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1797957
The George Mateljan Foundation (World’s Healthiest Foods). “What Nutrients Are Most Likely to be Deficient in a Vegetarian Diet?” Accessed 12 June 2018: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?pfriendly=1&tname=george&dbid=367
WorldsHealthiestFoods.com. “Vitamin B6.” http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=108
NIH.Gov “Vitamin B-12 Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet.” Accessed 12 June 2018:https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-HealthProfessional/
Patrick, S.J., “Vitamin B12 Deficiency Can be Sneaky, Harmful.” Harvard Health Newsletter.Accessed 12 June 2019: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/vitamin-b12-deficiency-can-be-sneaky-harmful-201301105780
Oregon State University Newsroom. “Vegetarians May Not Get the Good B6.” Accessed 12 June 2018: http://today.oregonstate.edu/archives/2009/aug/vegetarians-may-not-get-good-vitamin-b-6