Much is known about the benefits of a vegan or vegetarian diet. These can range from weight loss, a reduced risk of heart disease, better blood sugar control and a lower risk of certain types of cancer. But many people that switch over to a vegan or vegetarian diet should avoid some mistakes to get the diet balanced, and if they don’t, they will not benefit from this sort of diet.
By identifying the mistakes, this post aims at showing what you should avoid and where you can improve your diet so you too can benefit of being a vegan or a vegetarian.
1 Do not assume that vegetarian or vegan products are healthier
Buying products that are marked vegetarian or vegan are not always better than the regular alternatives. They might just be pricier.
For instance, almond milk, a plant-based milk that is low in calories and enriched with different vitamins and minerals, might not be healthier than traditional old cow’s milk. That is since cow’s milk contains more protein than what unsweetened almond milk contains. In addition, sweetened almond milk could be high in sugar.
Then if you look at soy-based products like veggie burgers, they are mostly highly processed products. They also have many artificial ingredients. This makes them rather unhealthy than a beef patty.
The biggest issue are the ration vegetarian diets have compared to a meat-based diet, since they are mostly high in calories, lacking protein, fiber and the nutrient to make a balanced meal. Therefore, you can maybe use them as you get used to this lifestyle, but you need to limit them in your diet.
2 A lack of vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is important in the making of red blood cells and DNA, but is not limited to these processes. The bad news for vegans and vegetarians are that the best sources of vitamin B12 are animal based, like eggs, meat, poultry, milk products and shellfish.
If you do not get enough vitamin B12 in, you could suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency. The symptoms of this deficiency are memory problems, fatigue and numbness, but also megaloblastic anemia. Megaloblastic anemia means that your body produces less red blood cells than what your body needs.
To test for a deficiency can be problematic if you have a high intake of folate, since this could mask a vitamin B12 deficiency. If left undetected the damage can become irreversible.
Luckily, there are supplements and foods that vegetarians can add to their diet to make sure that they get their daily intake of vitamin B12. The type of foods high in vitamin B12 would be different sorts of edible algae and fortified foods.
3 Not drinking adequate amount of water
Water is vital for a healthy diet and healthy body. More so, for people who eat a high fiber diet, like vegans and vegetarians. Legumes, vegetables and whole grains are high-fiber foods, which are also the staple foods of most vegans and vegetarians.
It is therefore that vegans and vegetarians alike should drink water, which will help the fiber pass through their digestive tract and this will avert issues like gas, bloating and constipation.
You should ensure you have enough water. Some fruits like watermelon can also be eaten, as they are also a good source of water. Staying hydrated is important, but it also helps with your digestion.
4 Lacking calcium in your diet
We need calcium for healthy bones and teeth, to make sure our muscles function right and to support our nervous system. If you lack calcium, you can develop osteoporosis. This condition causes frail, porous bones that can fracture easily.
Dairy products are normally the best sources of calcium. But vegans and vegetarians can eat plants like kale, broccoli, collard greens, almonds, bok choy, oranges and figs, which are all rich in calcium.
5 Failing to get enough iron
One of the best sources of iron is meat. More so, meat contains heme iron. The human body easily absorbs this sort of iron. The issue now is that vegans and vegetarians alike will struggle with plant sources, such as numerous kinds of fruits, vegetables, cereals and beans, for their supply of iron, as they are not easily absorbed in the body.
This means that vegans and vegetarians could become anemic. This is a condition where there is not enough red blood cells in your body, which has the symptoms of dizziness, fatigue and shortness of breath.
To prevent this, you need to add enough good sources of iron into your diet. Good sources are lentils, beans, fortified cereals, nuts, seeds, oats and leafy greens. However, to make the adsorption effective you need to add in a high dose of vitamin C, or pair them with vitamin C rich foods.