One of the common problems among people who practice vegetarianism is an insufficient supply of certain vitamins and minerals. A plant-based diet cannot cover the need for certain components, which need to be supplemented through proper supplementation.
Some people believe that vegetarians who eat enough plant-based products do not need to worry about vitamin B12 deficiency. Meanwhile, numerous studies show that vegetarians are more likely to be deficient in it. Vitamin B12 is important for many important processes in the body, including protein metabolism and the production of red blood cells, responsible for transporting oxygen in the body. It is also important for the proper functioning of the nervous system. A deficiency can lead to anemia, brain disorders, as well as infertility, bone and heart disease.
The most important omega-3 fatty acids include alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), as well as long-chain eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) acids. Long-chain fatty acids are part of the structure of the brain and the retina, which is why they are so important for the proper functioning of these two organs. Their deficiency promotes inflammation, depression, and the development of ADHD and breast cancer.
While ALA can be found in flax seeds, chia, hemp and walnuts, EPA and DHA are primarily found in animal products such as fatty fish and cod liver oil. This is confirmed by a growing body of scientific research, which shows that vegetarians have half the levels of EPA and DHA in their bodies than people on a traditional diet.
Iron is a nutrient used for DNA formation and red blood cell production, as well as oxygen transport in the blood. Iron is also essential for maintaining normal energy metabolism. Its deficiency leads to anemia and symptoms such as fatigue and weakened immunity. Iron comes in two forms: heme and non-heme. Hemic iron is found only in animal products, while non-heme iron is found in plants. Absorption of heme iron from the gastrointestinal tract is quite high, which cannot be said about non-heme iron, so vegetarians should eat on average 1.8 times more iron than meat eaters.
Zinc is a mineral that determines proper metabolism, efficient functioning of the immune system and regeneration of body cells. Zinc deficiency may result in growth retardation, hair loss, chronic diarrhea, and slower wound healing. Few products of plant origin contain sufficient amounts of zinc. In addition, its absorption may be limited by the high concentration of phytic acid in plant products. For this reason, vegetarians should aim to increase their zinc intake by 1.5 times that of meat eaters.
Although carnivores also suffer from vitamin D deficiency, the supply of vitamin D with the diet is generally even lower in people following a vegetarian diet. This is because the products with the highest content of vitamin D3 are fatty fish, eggs, offal and meat. Vitamin D is very important for the body: it participates in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus from the intestines, stimulates the immune system, affects mood, memory and muscle regeneration.
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