Being vegetarian is healthy but sometimes just eating vegetarian food might not be enough. Though a vegetarian diet is balanced and contains most of the essential nutrients there might be some micro nutrients missing from the otherwise healthy diet.
Vegetarian sources might not be able to meet your daily nutrient requirement especially if you already have a deficiency or don’t consume supplements. The following are the most common micro nutrients that may be lacking in a vegetarian diet.
Vitamin B12: B12 is created by a particular type of bacteria that’s mainly found in the digestive tracts of animals, which means foods like milk, eggs, meat, and fish are the major dietary sources of the vitamin. All the Vitamin B12 found in the nature is synthesized by micro-organisms. The vitamin is absent in plant foods. Vegan diets or a strict vegetarian have the highest risk of deficiency. Vitamin B12 deficiency causes a number of problems, including weakness, tiredness, constipation, loss of appetite, weight loss, poor memory, and megaloblastic anemia.
Vitamin D: There are two major types of vitamin D:
- Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) – which is synthesized by plants and is not produced by the human body.
- Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) – which is made in large quantities in the skin when sunlight strikes bare skin. It can also be ingested from animal sources.
Vitamin D3 is approximately three times more effective at maintaining serum concentrations because the binding protein has a higher affinity to vitamin D3 than vitamin D2. This allows vitamin D3 to reside in the circulatory system longer and increase the concentration to sufficient levels more quickly.
Iron (Heme): Iron is essential for health and transporting oxygen. A deficiency in iron causes fatigue and decreased immune function. There are two forms of dietary iron: heme and non-heme. Heme iron is found in animal foods. Heme iron, derived from the hemoglobin and myoglobin is found in meat tissue. Heme Iron is useful in the production of Red Blood Cells in humans. The iron absorption from heme iron ranges from 15%-35% while the absorption from non-heme iron is only 2%-20%. Evidence does show that body iron stores in vegetarians do tend to be lower. Meat, fish, poultry and vitamin C improve the absorption of non-heme iron.