Vegetarian and Vegan Diets
Vegetarians eat a diet that includes fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, eggs, and dairy products but excludes meat, poultry, and seafood. Vegans eat a diet that includes fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts but excludes meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products, and all other animal products (some vegans even choose to eliminate honey and many avoid using leather products). Many people chose these diets for ethical, nutritional, or even religious reasons. Vegetarian and vegan diets have been proven to decrease the risk of heart disease and cancer, lower cholesterol, and promote weight loss.
While these diets can be very healthful, it is important to be mindful of what nutrients you may be missing when following one of these diets. There are many ways to get all the nutrients that you need, through plant based sources and supplements, if you are paying attention.
The most common missed nutrients in a vegetarian or vegan's diet are protein, calcium, iron, omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, and vitamin B12.
- Protein - Good sources of protein include nuts, seeds, grains, eggs, dairy, soy products, and legumes (peas, beans, and lentils).
- Calcium - Calcium is found in milk, cheese, raw vegetables (especially dark green, leafy ones), sesame seeds, tofu, and nuts and is also available in supplements and fortified foods.
- Iron- Iron can be obtained from whole grains, leafy green vegetables, eggs, blackstrap molasses, legumes, beets, apricots, and figs.
- Omega 3 and 6 - The Essential Fatty Acids (ones that must be obtained from food sources since our body cannot make them) Omega 3 and Omega 6 are important and are found in (Omega 3) flaxseed oil, flaxseeds, walnut oil, and canola oil and (Omega 6) safflower oil, grape-seed oil, sunflower oil, soy oil, walnut oil, corn oil, sesame oil, sunflower seeds, walnuts, and sesame seeds. The balance of omega 3 to omega 6 should be 1:3.
- Vitamin B12 - Vitamin B12 is the only vitamin not found in a plant based diet that the body cannot make on its own. Because vitamin B12 is essential for cell division, blood formation, maintenance of the nervous system and overall good health, it is important for vegetarians and vegans to seek B12 from other sources, including fortified foods and supplements.
If you are thinking about becoming a vegetarian or a vegan or are currently following one of these diets and would like to meet with Health Services you can set up an appointment by calling 580-5550 or by stopping by the Health Services office on the first floor of Jonsson Tower.