Problem Nutrients for Vegetarians and Vegans

With all the health and nutritional advantages of vegan or even partial vegetarian diets, there are some potential pitfalls that are best addressed. This chart of problem nutrients for vegetarians and vegans shows how to avoid problems  with essential nutrients such as Vitamin D, Vitamin B2 or Riboflavin, Vitamin B12, Calcium, Iron, Zinc.

The real problem, however, is not in what you miss eating as a vegan but what you miss eating as a carnivore.

Some surfers have expressed an interest in becoming vegetarian or vegan,yet fear they will not get all the vitamins that they need without eating meat,poultry, fish, eggs, or diary.

So, the question is: How can I get the nutrients I need while eating vegan or vegetarian?

It is easy. See for yourself in the chart below.

In the meantime, consider this. One of the real health problems in eating milk,dairy, and eggs (besides the animal fat, hormones, antibiotics, etc.) is that they are filling. People who eat them often don’t eat nearly enough fruit, vegetables, and grains to get the necessary vitamins, minerals, and fiber these foods contain.

It is easy to eat a balanced diet if you eat vegan. In my opinion, it is hardto eat a balanced diet if you are a carnivore eating meat, eggs, and dairy on a regularbasis.

After all, you can only eat so much during any day. And most of that should be fruits, vegetables, and grains.

NutrientFunctionVegan SourceOvolactoComments
Vitamin DHelps body absorb and use calcium. Promotes normal development of bones and teeth.Same as non-vegan: Sunshine, fortified foods. Most soy milk is fortified with Vitamin D just as cow’s milk is fortified.Sunshine, fortified cow or soy milk, egg yolks plus all vegan sources.Sunshine, often a sufficient source of  Vitamin D in the sunny south, is often inadequate in northern areas.
Vitamin B2Essential to the function of enzymes that promote the release of energy from carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.Dark green leafy vegetables, wheat germ, brewer’s yeast, enriched and whole-grain breads and cereals, legumes, nuts, fruit.Milk, eggs plus all vegan sources.Riboflavin supplements should be taken with meals to increase absorption.
Vitamin B12Essential for the formation of red blood cells and proper functioning of nervous system.Fortified foods, supplements.Eggs, milk and milk products plus all vegan sources.If in doubt, have a blood test.
CalciumCalcium is essential for blood clotting, nerve transmission, and muscle contraction. It is the major building material for bones and teeth. Fortified soy milk, tofu (especially when processed with calcium sulfate),  dark green leafy vegetables, blackstrap molasses, dried figs and prunes, pinto beans,  fortified foods, supplements.All vegan sources. A growing body of research is showing that cow’s milk has a negative effect on calcium in our bodies. Try to get your calcium from other sources besides cow’s milk.Some plant foods such as sesame seeds, spinach, beet greens, rhubarb, and Swiss chard contain high levels of oxalic acid which combines with calcium and prevents is absorption.
IronA component of enzymes involved in energy metabolism. An integral part of hemoglobin which carries oxygen in the red blood cells.Enriched and whole-grain breads and cereals, wheat germ, seeds, nuts, blackstrap molasses, garbanzos,  black-eyed peas, raisins, prune juice, potato skins, green leafy vegetables, tofu, miso, brewer’s yeast, tomato juice, foods cooked in cast-iron cookware.Same as for vegan.The nonheme iron in plants is not absorbed as well as the heme iron in meat. The fiber in plants also interferes with plant iron absorption, as do coffee, tea, and calcium supplements when taken with or shortly before or after a meal. Enhance absorption of nonheme iron by combining them with foods providing Vitamin C. Tea & coffee interfere with iron absorption.
ZincEssential to the composition or function of over 20 enzymes in the body; necessary for protein synthesis in body cells; role in reproduction, taste acuity, and function of immune system.Nuts, legumes, miso, lima beans,   pumpkin and sunflower seeds, wheat germ, whole-grain yeast breads, whole-grain cereals.Milk and egg yolks plus all vegan sources.The phylate in whole grains and the fiber in many plant foods bind zinc, interfering with its absorption. Calcium and iron supplements can also interfere with zinc absorption. Zinc supplements may upset copper/zinc balance in body.


Source: Total Nutrition:The Only Guide You’ll Ever Need from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, The Complete Book of Vitamin Cures from the Prevention Health Library, Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for reversing Heart DiseaseThe Yale Guild to Children’s Nutrition, Prevention’s Food & Nutrition from the Prevention Health Library, Slate, 1999.

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