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Essential Nutrients for the Meat-Free Diet

By Genevieve Smith 

I’m writing an ongoing series covering essential nutrients, because while there are other nutritional science topics that I love to hash out, like explaining antioxidants or recommending fiber, essential nutrients are key. They are the foundation of your being -- and they are needed to function. This particular post will focus on the essential nutrients that are hard to come by on a vegetarian or vegan diet. Thus, let’s dig into some of the very things that keep us alive.

The Basic Building Blocks of Life

Vegetarian and vegan diets which cut out meats and dairy can up the likelihood that you’re low on some of the essentials to health. If you’re new to making the switch, or have found yourself feeling under the weather and in a food rut, look no further than the paragraphs below. Let's dig in, to find vegetarian and vegan-friendly ways to get the essential nutrients needed to survive.

Vitamin D - Partaking in the process of building bone, Vitamin D also may help combat osteoporosis later in life. While you can get your fill from sunshine in the summer months (your skin reacts with UV light to produce the vitamin!) it is typically recommended to make up for those overcast days by eating fish, eggs, and fortified milk. Fear not. For those on a meat and dairy-free diet, you can find Vitamin D in mushrooms, fortified dairy-free milks, and tofu.

Calcium - Notoriously needed for strong bones and healthy teeth, calcium aids in the process of bone building. While milk is the most well-known source, kale comes in a close second, followed not far behind by broccoli, watercress, and bok choi. Score.

Iron - Ever suffered from anemia? It was likely due to an iron deficiency, and those on a meat-free diet are the highest at risk. The mineral helps the body produce haemoglobin, which helps red blood cells transport oxygen from the lungs onwards into the body. THe issue is, it is most biologically available in heme form found in meat sources, including seafood and poultry. In its non-heme form, it is harder for the body to absorb, but when coupled with Vitamin C (the golden ticket!), the body processes the mineral better. Vegetarian non-heme iron can be found in seeds, beans, peas, lentils, leafy greens and eggs.

Vegetarian and vegan diets are a great choice if your body leads you in that direction. However, there can be times when you fall into deficiency if you get too comfortable. As a vegetarian myself, I know I have. Stay on top of your body’s needs by keeping up on the sources it needs that stay within your diet plan. I hope this list increases your familiarity with what you need to function, and where you can turn to get it! To health and happy eating.

To learn more about your health and wellness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Kingwood, Tex.


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