What Vitamins and Minerals do Vegetarians Need?
If you’ve chosen a vegetarian diet, you’re already more conscious than a lot of people about what you put in your body. A vegetarian diet can have a number of health benefits, not the least of which includes the extra intake of essential antioxidant vitamins and other nutrients from whole fruits and vegetables.
You Might Be Missing Out on Nutrients
Since whole foods are your best source for many vitamins and minerals, getting more of them can only benefit your overall health. Still, not all vegetarians have perfect diets, and you can’t get all the nutrients you need when you avoid certain foods. There are some vitamins and minerals that are most readily available and absorbed from animal sources. By removing these from your diet, you may be missing out on vital nutrients.
Consider Adding a Multivitamin
Many vegetarians fall into the trap of filling up on carbs or other nutrient-poor processed foods when they don’t have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. That’s why it’s important for vegetarians to pay close attention to their nutrient intake, and consider supplementing with certain vitamins or rounding out their diet with a well-balanced multivitamin. Below, you’ll learn more about the most important vitamins, minerals and other nutrients for vegetarians.
Vitamin B12 for Vegetarians
This essential B vitamin helps maintain a healthy nervous system, but is not available in many plants. That’s why certain foods (including yeast extracts, soy milks and veggie burgers) are fortified with vitamin B12.
If you are a vegetarian who is also an endurance athlete, you may be at particular risk for vitamin B12 deficiency. Additionally, certain medications, when taken regularly, also affect how B vitamins are metabolized. These medications include: acid blockers, anti-inflammatory painkillers and antibiotics.
Iron for Vegetarians
Did you know that the human body has more difficulty absorbing the iron found in plant-based foods than it does absorbing the iron found in animal foods? That’s why vegetarians need to pay particular attention to their iron intake.
Dietary sources of iron for vegetarians includes: dark leafy greens, beans, dried fruits and fortified cereals. Still, many vegetarians need to add iron (in conjunction with Vitamin C, which aids in absorption) to their diet via an iron supplement or a multivitamin.
Zinc for Vegetarians
We need zinc to keep the immune system strong, help heal wounds, and support normal growth. Unfortunately, zinc is another one of those minerals that the body absorbs more easily from animal sources. If you’re not vegan, good sources of zinc include milk, cheese and wholegrain breads. All vegetarians/vegans can get zinc from nuts and legumes. Still, you may need to up your zinc intake with the help of a multi.
Protein for Vegetarians
Protein is a vital building-block for every single cell in the body. Your body needs protein to build and repair tissues, make enzymes and hormones, and support healthy bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. Most vegetarians know to round out their protein intake with beans, legumes, and if you’re not vegan, cheese and Greek yogurt.
Other important nutrients for vegetarians to consider are Omega 3 fatty acids, which may help maintain a healthy heart, and selenium, a mineral that helps support a healthy immune system.
The bottom line is that if your diet is limited in any way, you may be at risk for nutrient deficiencies. Rather than a cabinet full of bottles, consider adding a well-balanced multivitamin like Geritol® to your daily regimen to help full any nutrient gaps. Geritol multivitamin is specially formulated with just the right vitamins in just the right amounts so you can feel your best!
Vitamins and Supplements Lifestyle Guide. 2005-2013 WebMD, LLC. Retrieved from: http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/lifestyle-guide-11/default.htm February 10, 2013.
Vegetarian and Vegan Diet. Vegetarian and Vegan Diet. 2005-2013 WebMD LLC. Retrieved from: http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/guide/vegetarian-and-vegan-diet?page=2 February 12, 2013.