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Potential Nutrient Deficiencies In A Vegetarian Diet

Prepared by Nutritionist Chen Yin


In recent years, the trend of being a vegetarian or vegan has been rising and becoming more appealing as there is various and delicious variety of vegetarian cuisine available. A vegetarian diet can be healthier if it is well planned to include a wide variety of plant foods to meet nutritional requirements. A plant based diet tends to be lower in saturated fat, cholesterol and higher in complex carbohydrates and fibre than the usual diet. However, it can lead to nutritional deficiencies if it is not carefully planned.

Here are some of the potential nutrient deficiencies in a poorly planned vegetarian diet.

  1. Iron

Low iron diet can lead to anaemia due to iron deficiency. Iron is required for the production of red blood cells, optimal immune and mental function, and energy production. Plant based sources of iron include legumes, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds. Besides, foods rich in vitamin C will also help iron absorption.

  1. Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 plays a vital role in the formation of red blood cell and development of nervous system. Deficiency of vitamin B12 can result in both physical and mental symptoms include fatigue, anaemia, dementia and depression. Vitamin B12 is naturally derived from animal based sources such as eggs, meat and dairy products. Alternatively, it can be obtained through vitamin B12 supplement or fortified food.

  1. Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are a very popular nutrient which may help lower blood pressure, improve brain health and prevent heart disease. Flaxseed, chia seed and walnuts are good plant based source of omega-3 fatty acids.

  1. Vitamin D and Calcium

Sunshine vitamin which is vitamin D along with calcium are important nutrients in maintaining bone health. Long term deficiency of vitamin D and calcium can result in osteoporosis.

Vitamin D is easily obtained from sun exposure by engaging in more outdoor activities. For those with less outdoor time, supplementation is also available. While plant based sources of calcium can be found in beans and lentils, nuts, green leafy vegetables, edamame and tofu.

 

Reference

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  4. Calderón-Ospina CA, Nava-Mesa MO. B Vitamins in the nervous system: Current knowledge of the biochemical modes of action and synergies of thiamine, pyridoxine, and cobalamin. CNS Neurosci Ther. 2020 Jan;26(1):5-13. doi: 10.1111/cns.13207. Epub 2019 Sep 6. PMID: 31490017; PMCID: PMC6930825.
  5. Green, R., Allen, L., Bjørke-Monsen, AL. et al. Vitamin B12 deficiency. Nat Rev Dis Primers 3, 17040 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrdp.2017.40
  6. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-HealthProfessional/
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