Have you decided to eat fewer or no animal products? Perhaps because you feel its healthier for you? Or maybe out of concern for the environment or animal welfare? Or maybe simply because you don’t like fish or meat? Whatever your reasons are, if meat or fish aren’t on your menu, it’s essential to get some of the key nutrients these animal products contain from alternative sources.
Now, as our customer, we don’t have to tell you Omega-3 is important. But did you know about these other 5 key nutrients you have to pay special attention to?
1. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is important for metabolism, central nervous system health, red blood cell formation, brain functioning and more.
However, since the only natural sources of this vitamin are meat, dairy and eggs, vegetarians (especially vegans) often develop deficiencies. Symptoms of a B12 deficiency can include: fatigue, memory loss, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, disorientation, and numbness/tingling in the hands or feet.
Where to Get it: If you don’t eat dairy or eggs, look for B12 in soy milk, nutritional yeast, fortified cereals, fortified vegan cheese and fortified veggie burgers. Though whole foods are the best source, supplements can also ensure an adequate intake with 2.4 micrograms per day—the recommended daily amount of B12.
Vegans and vegetarians are often bombarded with questions about where they get their protein. However, with the plethora of plant-based protein available, getting enough protein is simpler than you may think. Though it may require a little more work and creativity to meet your protein and amino acid needs without consuming animal products, it can be done. Plus, plant-based protein sources typically contain more dietary fiber and less saturated fat than animal-based sources.
Where to Get it: beans, legumes, nuts, soy, whole grains, seeds and — if you’re vegetarian — dairy and eggs.
Zinc plays a role in regulating the body’s immune system and can help prevent you from catching a cold. It’s also crucial for metabolism and healing. However, since Zinc is found in limited amounts of plant-based foods, it’s easy for vegans and vegetarians to develop a deficiency. Plus, it is suggested that vegetarians and vegans consume 50% more than the recommended 40 mg for adults, due to the fact that Zinc from plant-based foods has a lower absorption level.
Where to Get it: whole grains, wheat germ, tempeh, tofu, miso, legumes, nuts, seeds and zinc-fortified cereals. (Tip: To increase the amount of zinc absorption from plant foods, soak nuts, beans and legumes overnight)
Vegetarian or not, Iron deficiency is the most common vitamin deficiency in the world. Vegetarians and vegans, especially, can have a hard time getting the necessary amount of iron since our bodies absorb two to three times more iron from animal sources than from plant sources. Therefore, if you get your iron from plant-based foods, you’ll need to consume greater quantities. Symptoms of an iron deficiency can include: fatigue, weakened immune system, dizziness, headache, pale skin, weakness.
Where to Get it: Beans, fortified breads and cereals, pumpkin seeds, brussel sprouts, lentils, arugula, dried fruit, prune juice, cooked spinach and tofu.
5. Vitamin D
Vitamin D contributes to good bone health as well as boosts the body’s immune system and helps the functioning of vital organs. Though our bodies can produce vitamin D from sunlight, our indoor lifestyles aren’t very conducive to this method, making it important to consume foods that contain this nutrient as well. However, if you’re vegetarian or vegan, relying on food for vitamin D can be tricky, as Vitamin D is found in very few foods and most of them are animal origin. Though there are a handful of vegan food sources that contain vitamin D, sun exposure and supplements can help get the recommended 600 IU a day.
Where to Get it: Fortified orange juice, soymilk, cereal, shiitake mushrooms and — if you eat it — eggs, cheese, salmon, tuna and cow’s milk.