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What Vegetarians Need in Their Diets

5 Questions Vegetarians Should Ask Themselves

I've never met a vegetarian (myself included) who hasn't been asked a hundred times, "Are you getting enough protein?" But this isn't the only thing vegetarians need to watch out for. Avoiding meat means you need to pay special attention to your diet to make sure you're getting other essential nutrients as well. You also need to be careful about overdoing it with meat alternatives and dairy products, since this may prompt other health issues. If you don't eat beef, poultry, or fish, ask yourself these five questions.

  1. Am I getting enough protein? There's no black and white number that's right for everyone since your protein intake depends on body weight and activity level; the number ranges between 40 and 90 grams. Check out this handy chart showing how much protein you need each day. Good sources of vegetarian protein include beans, soy products like tofu and soy milk, nuts, and whole grains.
  2. Does my diet offer enough vitamin B12? Women need 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B12 each day, and since it's found in animal products, be sure you eat enough milk, cheese, yogurt, and eggs if you're a lacto-ovo-vegetarian. Vitamin B12 is also found in nutritional yeast, so sprinkle some on your popcorn or make this Vegan Mac and Cheese.

Continue reading for three more questions vegetarians should ask themselves.

  1. Am I at risk for anemia? Meat is a great source of iron, so if you're not eating any, it makes sense to ask this question. A woman needs 18 milligrams of iron a day, and as long as you're eating beans, dark green veggies, whole grains like barley and oats, and potatoes, you're probably getting enough. If you're not sure or you're experiencing fatigue, pale skin, weakness, headaches, dizziness, cold hands and feet, or brittle nails, make an appointment with your doc to get a blood test to check your iron levels.
  2. Am I overdoing it on sodium? Canned bean and veggie soup, salted nuts, pizza, cheese, meat alternatives like marinated tofu and veggie burgers, and premade vegetarian frozen entrées are commonly part of a vegetarian's diet. The problem is they tend to be high in sodium. If you're healthy and under 50 years old, you should aim to consume less than 2,300 milligrams of salt a day — about one teaspoon of the white stuff. Since that number doesn't just come from the salt shaker, you need to be mindful of the sodium content in your food. Be a label reader, and if you're worried about getting too much salt, talk to your doctor and have your blood pressure checked.
  3. Do I have high cholesterol? Since you don't get your protein from meat, there's a chance you fill up on dairy products like cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, butter, and eggs, which can add up to a lot of cholesterol. Be mindful of how much dairy you're eating, and if you're worried about your cholesterol, get it tested by your doctor. Your LDL levels should be between 100 and 129 mg/dL, HDL levels at 60 mg/dL or above, and triglycerides should be below 150 mg/dL.
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umang4 umang4 5 years
This is a collage of information to make a particular case. Many Indians have been vegans since hundreds of years and have managed to live full lives. There is not a single vegetarian food product which claims to provide "cholesterol" in a nascent form, which is primarily derived from animal sources. One can have enough proteins from pulses. It has been presumed that vegetarians indulge upon canned entrees which is quite inaccurate. Thumbs down!!
ktgilead ktgilead 5 years
Okay, after reading this, it seems as if it's directed at extremely unhealthy people. Honestly, most of this information is incorrect, but it's "good enough" for junk-food addicts who gorge on cheese and pizza. Sick.
ktgilead ktgilead 5 years
EEeek!! I hope no one read this & took it seriously!! This was obviously not written by a trained, professional nutritionist. So many messed up & ill informed "facts", here. Wow.
kinkihair kinkihair 5 years
After slowly turning into a junk-atarian, I cleaned up my diet. I now count calories and monitor my sodium and protein. I also limit my use of processed foods as well as dairy/soy/gluten. It sounds more complicated than it really is and it helped me balance out my diet.
geralyns geralyns 5 years
I just learned about and bought Amasai GreenFed - cattle intensely graze on grasses and greens - no grains Cultured - with over 30 probiotics, creating an easy-to-digest, smoothie-like beverage True Whole Milk - never skimmed, always teeming with protein, healthy fats and fat-soluble vitamins can't wait to get them! Let me know if you would like some too!
Anne80 Anne80 5 years
Everyone needs to watch their omega-3 intake, not just vegetarians, because the modern western diet is so high in omega-6, which competes for 'space' in your body with the omega 3. The ideal ratio is 2:1 - 5:1, but most people get something closer to 15:1, which can increase chances of heart disease, certain kinds of cancer and inflammatory diseases. There are vegetarian supplements: fish get their omega-3 from eating algae, so of course we can also extract them directly from their algae, just search for vegetarian or vegan omega 3 supplements. It would probably benefit everyone, not just vegetarians and vegans, to take a supplement.
amschrader amschrader 5 years
Vegetarians should also be mindful of their omega-3 intake, over the long term not getting enough can lead to depression. Omega-3s are hard because while they exist in things like flax seeds, you'd have to be eating handfuls of them everyday to get anywhere close to the recommended daily intake. Really, the only way to ensure you get enough is to take supplements (which are unfortunately fish oil) or get eggs with the supplements already added.
Jenny-Sugar Jenny-Sugar 5 years
Yeah, I've been a vegetarian for over 20 years and it's good to know the answers to these questions, and feel confident that your diet is offering all you need.
Rhonda-Ridley Rhonda-Ridley 5 years
I was anaemic my entire life UNTIL I became a Vegetarian , my Dr. warned me about this . Now that he has been proven totally wrong :) almost 10 years of me being a strict Vegan , I do get my blood tested every 6 months just for my enjoyment but I now know that our body is an amazing machine & we have to listen to it carefully . Mine has been thanking me for living a cruelty free life and I thank you for this article . Anything to bring Vegetarianism to peoples attention ♥
Gabriela-Une-Vie-Saine Gabriela-Une-Vie-Saine 5 years
Interesting stuff. I was a pescatarian for about 2.5 years, and ended up eating meat again a few months ago because of the protein and iron thing. I absolutely think it IS possible for people to get all the nutrients they need on a vegetarian diet, but careful attention needs to be paid to make sure that they do!
YogaGirlAli YogaGirlAli 5 years
Very helpful, thank you! :)
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