Precautions for vegetarians

There are different types of vegetarians:

1. Vegan: plant food only, no eggs, milk, or dairy product

2. Ovo-Vegetarians: Eat eggs but no dairy

3. Lacto-vegetarians: use dairy products but not eggs.

The predominate nutritional risk for the total vegetarians (Vegans) who abstain from all dairy products, animal products and eggs is B12 deficiency, since there is no known naturally occurring plant source for this vitamin. B12 deficiency can cause severe damage to the nerve cells. However, supplementation is very easy. Many foods from non-dairy are fortified with B12, such as fortified soy beverage, breakfast cereal, nutritional yeast, meat analogs and the supplements. These foods can be used to make up the vitamins that are lack of in the plant foods.

It is also essential that vegans consume a wide range of foods. Vegan diets in the past have received bad press and accusations that they were unhealthy. These conclusions, however, were based on a group of vegetarians who restricted their food intake to just one or two foods. Since then, studies show that vegans eating a balanced diet, have the lowest incidence of disease, and have the longest life spans.

Ovo-vegetarians and Vegans may have inadequate vitamin D and calcium intake. There are vegetarian foods supplemented with vitamin D, such as soymilk and some cereals. Exposure of hands, arms and face to the sun for 5 to 15 minutes per day provides sufficient amounts of vitamin D.

Calcium is well absorbed from many plant foods, and vegan diets can provide adequate calcium if the diet includes foods rich in calcium. The lower intake of proteins, especially from animal sources lowers the amount of calcium required by vegans. The lower total amount of protein can also reduce the amount of calcium required. On the average, for every gram of protein consumed, calcium loss increases by about 1 mg. Plant foods are also an excellent source of magnesium, which also reduces the amount of calcium intake required in the diet. Everybody, including vegans, increase their calcium excretion with increased sodium intake. Meat diets contain more sodium than do vegan diets.

Here is a list of plant foods high in calcium:

Tofu precipitated by calcium sulfate


Dark green leafy vegetables: Kale, collard, mustard, turnip greens, broccoli, bakchoy, brussel sprouts, Chinese cabbage.

Fortified soymilk

Legumes: Great northern beans, green soy bean, navy beans, black beans, vegetarian baked beans,


Dried Figs

Navel oranges, papaya

Lacto-Ovo: Vegetarians avoid all types of animal flesh, including fish and poultry. In addition to plant foods, they also eat eggs and dairy products. The lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet is the least restrictive of the vegetarian diets. However, there needs to be caution that excessive high fat dairy products are not used to replace meat because of their high saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium content.




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