Vegetarian Diet for Beginners: What Supplements Do You Need to Take?
There are many benefits from being on a vegetarian diet. For instance, people whose diet is plant-based tend to have a lower risk of developing diseases like cancer and diabetes. Also, it is easier to maintain a healthy weight with a vegetarian diet.
There are different types of vegetarianism, such as lacto-ovo vegetarianism, ovo-vegetarianism, and veganism. Regardless of what vegetarianism type you choose, it is crucial to ensure your body gets the necessary nutrients from your diet.
In this article, we will cover what and how to supplement a vegetarian diet to ensure good nutrition.
Vitamin B12 provides essential health benefits, such as:
- Enabling the production of red blood cells
- Building and regulating DNA
- Preventing illnesses like anemia
- Preserving optimal brain function
According to the National Institutes of Health, the recommended daily amount of vitamin B12 for adults 14 years of age or older is 2.4 mcg.
Sources of Vitamin B12 for Vegetarians
Vegetarian foods with vitamin B12 are dairy products and eggs. Meanwhile, vegan sources of this vitamin are fortified foods. For example, store-bought products that may be fortified with vitamin B12 are plant-based milk, nutritional yeast, and cereals.
Vegetarians are prone to develop vitamin B12 deficiency, but supplements can help you complement your vitamin B12 intake. Nevertheless, we highly encourage you to consult with your doctor or nutritionist before taking supplements.
Iron is necessary for the production of proteins like hemoglobin and myoglobin. Furthermore, these proteins are essential for transporting oxygen from our lungs to other organs in our bodies.
Iron Sources for Vegetarians
If you are on a veggie diet, you can get iron from foods like:
- Dark leafy green vegetables
- Fruits (bananas, raspberries, and apples)
Keep in mind that it is harder for our bodies to absorb iron from plant sources than from meat. Therefore, vegetarians are at a higher risk of developing iron deficiency conditions like anemia. On a positive note, eating foods rich in vitamin C can help vegetarians with the absorption of iron.
If you are a vegetarian, we recommend checking your iron levels regularly. Also, only take iron supplements under medical orders.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients because they:
- are excellent sources of energy
- help us maintain good heart health
- are necessary for the formation of cell membranes
- help us maintain a healthy immune system
The essential omega-3 fatty acids are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
Omega-3 Fatty Acids Sources for Vegetarians
We can obtain the omega-3 fatty acid ALA from plant sources like:
- Seeds (flaxseed, chia seeds, hemp seeds)
- Oils (soybean oil, canola oil, flaxseed oil, algal oil, perilla oil)
- Brussels Sprouts
Unfortunately, DHA and EPA amino acids are only present in sources like fish and seafood. Therefore, if you are on a veggie-only diet, you will likely need to take omega-3 supplements.
Vitamin D is crucial to regulating the levels of calcium and phosphate in our bodies. Also, it is essential to maintaining our bones, muscles, and teeth in good health.
Vitamin D Sources for Vegetarians
Vegetarians can obtain vitamin D from sources like:
- fortified foods (soy milk, cereals, juices)
Unless you are getting enough vitamin D from these sources, you will likely need to add supplements to your diet.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. Therefore, for better absorption, we recommend taking supplements after eating a meal that includes fats.
At Z.E.N. Foods, we want you to get the best possible nutrition. Therefore, we offer healthy vegetarian meal plan that suits your needs and budget, and we deliver all your meals to your door daily. Reach out to us at (310) 205-9368 for more info!