Saying “no” to meat can lead to many health benefits, including weight loss and lowering your risk of a number of diseases such as heart disease and cancer. However, meat does have many nutrients that are important for healthy living and therefore as a vegetarian, you run the risk of nutrient deficiencies.
According to LiveStrong, it is in fact possible to maintain the same level of nutrient intake on a vegetarian diet; it just takes some close monitoring. It’s important to be aware of what nutrients you’re missing out on and adjust your diet accordingly. Not sure what nutrients these may be? Check out some of these main ones that vegetarians should keep an eye on and some handy tricks to get the right intake.
It’s well known that meat is a key source of protein, which is necessary for a healthy and strong physique. New research suggests that 90 grams of protein per day, spread across all three meals is the best amount for repairing and supporting your muscles. On a purely plant based diet, this may prove to be difficult. However, there are other ways to increase your protein levels — tofu, lentils and eggs being some examples. You could also try a protein shake, a quick and easy method that has a high dosage of protein. For example, Amway’s BodyKey meal replacement blend combines whey and soy protein in combination with 22 other minerals and nutrients.
Iron is another key nutrient that can be at risk of being low when giving up meat. Allison Childress, a nutrition sciences instructor at Texas Tech University, says that men and people over 50 require roughly 8 milligrams of iron, while women under 50 require 18 milligrams. With the body needing iron to produce healthy red blood cells, deficiencies can lead to everyday problems such as headaches, light headedness and constant tiredness. Red meat is often a good source of iron, however as a vegetarian, you can supplement this with lentils, beans, spinach and dark chocolate. Furthermore, vitamin C assists in the absorption of iron in the blood, so try drinking a glass of orange juice or eating citrus before you eat your iron-rich meal.
Without enough zinc in your body, your immune system, metabolism and cellular health will deteriorate, which can pose many health risks over time. Interestingly for vegetarians, it is not simply the cutting out of meat that reduces zinc levels. In fact, many vegetarian staples such as whole grains are known to reduce absorption levels of zinc in system. This means that even if you take in enough zinc, not all of it may be absorbed. Therefore, it’s important to take extra dosages. Try increasing your intake of foods high in zinc, like chickpeas, baked beans and nuts.
By giving up meat, vegetarians are also saying “no” to the number of nutrients that meat provides. To ensure a healthy body and balanced lifestyle, it’s important for vegetarians to be aware of nutrient deficiencies and consume foods that make up for this loss.