Many of us may be wondering if we are getting all the nutrition that we need from the food we eat. Especially for the vegans and vegetarians, filling the nutritional gap is always a big concern. Even though plant-based consumer goods can ensure different vitamins, phytonutrients, fiber, and minerals, some nutrients are only made in a living thing and are exclusively found in meat, dairy products, fish, and eggs.
Many scientific data are available that justifies the limitation of a plant-based diet. However, science has managed to find out the important nutrients that are missing in a vegan or vegetarian diet. Here, we will try to give you a good picture of the multivitamins and nutrients lacking in a vegetarian diet and the ways to supplement them.
People who follow healthy meal prep and eat a well-balanced diet can ensure adequate minerals and vitamins from their food. These include vitamins A, D, E, and K that are fat-soluble and stored in the body. If you are having a healthy plant-based diet, you need not worry about these vitamins. However, the water-soluble vitamins like vitamin C and the B vitamins are not stored in the body and they need to be topped up frequently. The case is no different for minerals like zinc, calcium, and iron.
Multivitamins And Nutrients Lacking In A Vegetarian Diet
Studies show that people following a plant-based diet usually lack multivitamins like vitamin B12, Vitamin D, minerals like zinc, iron calcium, and omega 3 fatty acids. Let us see in detail the nutrients that are lacking in a plant-based diet.
Vitamin B12 is a group of B vitamins, namely, thiamine, niacin, pyridoxine, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, folate, and biotin. These are together called the vitamin B complex. B12 is water-soluble, meaning that it needs to be consumed frequently to avoid deficiency. Vitamin B12 is necessary for proper neurological function, synthesis of DNA, and manufacturing of RBC.
Deficiency of vitamin B12 can lead to problems like anemia, decreased energy levels, and neurological issues. If you are not getting enough B12 from the food you eat, you can feel tired and sluggish. As our bodies cannot make the vitamin, we should ensure it from the food we eat. This vitamin cannot be synthesized by plants, or fungi and is usually made by bacteria strains that have enzymes to synthesize the vitamin.
There are some plant-based sources like spirulina and shitake mushrooms that contain vitamin B12 naturally. Some of the food items like soy milk, nutritional yeast, and vegan meat substitutes are also fortified with vitamin B12.
This vitamin is essential to ensure the health of bones, muscles, and teeth. It is also necessary to support proper functioning of the immune system, cardiovascular activities, and to sustain a healthy pregnancy. This vitamin is synthesized in the skin when exposed to sunlight. Studies show that twenty minutes of exposure to sunlight on the arms and face is adequate to synthesize the required vitamin D.
People living in countries in the arctic region will have limited exposure to sunlight and will most likely need vitamin D supplements to ensure proper intake of the vitamin. Moreover, vegans and vegetarians can rely on fortified cereals and grains to ensure vitamin D intake.
Like vitamin B12, iron has an important role to play in the production of red blood cells. Iron is required for the formation of hemoglobin, which is the protein that transports oxygen from the lungs to other body parts. This mineral is available in two forms, heme iron, which is present in animal food sources like meat, fish, poultry and non-heme iron, which is present in plant-based food like legumes, dark leafy vegetables, beans, and fortified cereals.
The non-heme variant of iron is not readily absorbed by the body. Moreover, there are some food items that can inhibit the absorption of iron. Calcium present in dairy products, phytates in nuts, soybeans, grains, sesame seeds, and polyphenols present in coffee, black tea, dark chocolate, red wine and cocoa powder can inhibit the absorption of iron. On the contrary, foods that are rich in vitamin C can enhance the absorption of iron. Beans, leafy greens, and artichokes are some of the best food sources for vegetarians to ensure proper iron intake.
Zinc has a major role in many body functions like immunity buildup, fighting oxidative stress, and ensuring homeostasis. Zinc is a component of numerous active enzymes and has a role to play in cell replication, regulation, differentiation, and proliferation.
Some of the plant-based food items like seeds, nuts, soybeans, and grains contain phytates that inhibit the absorption of zinc. Soaking seeds, legumes, and nuts overnight can help decrease the phytate content in them. The absorption of zinc can be low in vegetarian diets even though you are reducing the phytate content. Therefore, it will be a good idea to have zinc supplements to ensure optimal dosage.