5 Nutrients Vegetarians Need to Watch For
Vegetarian eating is not simply not eating meat. It is a way of eating that provides all essential nutrients in adequate amounts to meet your basic nutritional needs. Most vegetarians are well-intended in their quest to change their protein sources, but neglect to do the research to know what they need to add to their diet in order that it is 100% complete. There are five common omissions that over time, can predispose vegetarians to important health issues, ranging from diabetes to infertility. Here is a checklist to be sure your own vegetarian lifestyle is steering you in the right direction.
1. What is my protein source and how much of it do I need to truly give me enough protein?
Here are your goals based on the number of calories you eat. This will make 30% of your calories protein. This is more than what you typically see as the minimal recommendations for sustaining life.
1200 calories 90 grams
1300 calories 93 grams
1400 calories 95 grams
1500 calories 98 grams
1600 calories 100 grams
1700 calories 103 grams
1800 calories 105 grams
1900 calories 108 grams
2000 calories 110 grams
If it sounds like a lot, Growing Naturals can help you hit the mark. Our protein powder, added to smoothies, can add 24 grams per serving. Vegans with a family history of diabetes or personal history of weight issues, by the way, are better served by choosing smoothies over juice. Growing Naturals products can help you make that switch without sacrificing your love of all those healthy fruits and vegetables!
2. Where is my vitamin D coming from, and have I had enough?
You will have to make a very conscious effort to get enough of this vitamin. With regard to whole foods, mushrooms are pretty much the only vitamin D-containing vegan food. These are mushrooms that have been specifically treated with ultra-violet light. With regard to vegan milk alternatives, beware. Most are so low in protein, they are more accurately thought of as juices rather than milks.
3. Are my fats healthy?
If you are eating a lot of packaged, processed, prepared, or baked food…be extra sure you are not inadvertently letting the pro-inflammatory fats sneak in. Remember, they tend to begin with the letters “s” and ” c” — soybean, safflower, sunflower, sesame, corn, cottonseed. (Canola is the exception.). Vegans are often blindsided here with salad dressings, baked goods, cookies, and chops. Good fats include olive and organic canola. If it’s your sweet tooth that makes it hard to stay away from processed food, consider that adequate protein and the right balance of fats are very powerful tools for fighting sweet cravings. Try a Growing Naturals smoothie mid-afternoon and see what happens to those late-day urges to eat sugar and drink caffeine.
4. Am I getting DHA and EPA (marine omega-3)?
Yes, flax, chia, walnuts, and other foods contain omega-3, but they contain ALA (alpha-linoleic acid) which is then converted to DHA and the conversion rate is typically not high. You will need to find a marine algae supplement to be sure your intake of these two essential fatty acids is adequate. If you’re fighting weight, sweet cravings, or insulin resistance, be sure you are getting DHA. It is found in marine algae. Don’t rely on veggie sources like green vegetables. While these are definitely healthy, the amount you would need to eat in order to depend on them for omega-3 is impractical.
5. Am I getting enough fruits and vegetables?
Ideally, these should be the vast majority of what you eat. You would be surprised at how many vegans there are, who do not like vegetables! You should be aiming for 2-3 1/2 cup servings PER MEAL. Here is where juicing, provided there is some protein included, can help you hit the mark. Also keep in mind juicing will contain more calories and sugar per gram versus whole vegetables.
Growing Naturals has a great team of chefs and nutrition specialists who love to create solutions to vegan issues. If you have favorite foods, but don’t know how to combine them with protein into something that works for you, let us know! We’ll get on it.