Potential Deficiencies of Vegetarian and Vegan diets

Whether you have decided to become a vegetarian through choice or a requirement of a cultural belief, it’s key that you balance your foods carefully to get all of the essential nutrients required to meet the demands of your body and prevent disease across the lifespan. Meat-free diets include vegetarians and vegans (meat and dairy free) of which there are 1.2 million currently in the UK, and these diets have grown in popularity over the years and become the focus of celebrity endorsed diet trends.

'To ensure you meet all your body’s dietary requirements I would recommend safeguarding you diet by investing in a vegetarian broad-spectrum multivitamin and mineral supplement which will contain all of the essential vitamins and minerals.'

Robert Hobson

The vegetarian diet does appear to be better for our health when compared with the typical omnivore (meat and plant eater) as it typically contains less saturated fat and greater amounts of nutritious foods such as whole grains, pulses, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds. It's these dietary components that research shows may provide better protection against chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease, type II diabetes and certain cancers.

Whilst there are many benefits to adopting a vegetarian way of eating, it's important that you plan your diet carefully as avoiding meat (and dairy products) may result in an imbalance of key nutrients if the right foods are not substituted.

If you are following a meat free diet it is also important to complement your proteins by combining foods such as legumes, bean, pulses and soy to get all of the essential amino acids required to help with the growth and repair of the body’s cells and tissues.

Vitamin B12iron and zinc may be lacking in a meat-free diet if it is not properly balanced and varied as these nutrients are typically found in foods of animal origin. Whilst heart healthy omega 3 fatty acids(essential fatty acids that must be obtained from the diet) are primarily obtained from oily fish (eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahxanaeoic acid (DHA)) they can also be gleaned from non-meat foods such as chia and flax seed oils, walnuts and dark green leafy vegetables. The omega 3 fatty acid found in these foods is called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) some of which is converted into EPA and DHA in the body (although this process is not very efficient)

'It may also beneficial to opt for an omega 3 supplement that contains the essential fatty acids EPA and DHA that have been shown to have a positive effect on heart health and help reduce inflammation in the body.'

Robert Hobson

What might Vegans need?

It’s important on a vegan diet to balance your energy requirements with nutritious energy dense foods such as avocados, oils, nut and nut butters, seeds and dried fruits as typically plant foods are high in fibre and low in calories. It’s also key on a vegan diet to ensure you have a good source of calcium as the main provider of this in the diet is milk and dairy foods. You can glean adequate amounts of calcium from other sources such as dark green leafy vegetables, fortified soya or rice milk, almonds, sesame seeds (and tahini), tofu and dried fruits so some of these foods should be included on a daily basis.