Almost 8 million Americans are vegetarians. It’s a long-term commitment for many with almost 60% following it for more than 10 years. One of the main reasons people make this choice is improvement of overall health. But there are common vegetarian diet mistakes that everyone should be aware of.
Common Vegetarian Diet Mistakes and How To Avoid Them
Any diet that excludes certain food groups have health risks associated with it. Hence, the problems some may find with a vegetarian option. While some issues are obvious, others are not so obvious.
In fact, signs can be so subtle that you might not consider diet as the cause. Others involve the intricate of body chemistry. Given these points, below are 4 common vegetarian diet mistakes to avoid.
#1: Not Meeting Your Protein Needs
Proteinis a big one, so let’s start with how much you need. As a general rule, your recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is your weight times 0.36. Particularly if you eat a lot of meat, you might thing that it’s easy to get enough. But it’s not because over 40% of Americans fall short of the RDA.
And for vegetarians, it’s even more difficult because of their diet. Your body must provide 9 essential amino acids, which are the building blocks for protein. Each one has a certain sequence of amino acids. So, if one is missing, your body cannot make the proteins that require it.
While many plant-based foods contain protein, not all of them have the full complement of amino acids. Consequently, a vegetarian must eat a variety of foods to ensure they have all nine in their diet. Your body cannot make up the difference and produce more of them.
Getting adequate amounts means that a vegetarian must pay closer attention to their diet. Diets that include meat don’t have that issue because they are complete proteins.
#2: Calcium Deficiency
This issue is one of the more insidious consequences of a vegetarian diet. When you eat a plant-based diet, you’re consuming higher quantities of foods that contain oxalic and phytic acids. Vegetables like spinach and beans are rich sources of the former, while nuts and seeds often have the latter.
The problem is that they may interfere with your body’s ability to absorb calcium. It is a vital nutrient for many body processes including heart and nerve function. It’s so important to your health that your body will tap into your stores of it in your bones and teeth to get enough. Deficiencies in calcium increase your risk of fractures and osteoporosis.
#3: What About Vitamin B12?
A lack of Vitamin B12 is another vegetarian diet mistake to avoid. It’s a bit of an anomaly when it comes to the B-complex vitamins. Plants provide excellent sources for most of the others. This one is the exception. The foods that have the highest amounts are primarily meat and fish based, with the exception of fortified breakfast cereals.
Plus, vitamin B12 is a water-soluble nutrient. That means that your body doesn’t store any excess amounts you get from your diet. Deficiencies aren’t just a vegetarian issue. Your ability to absorb it from foods declines with age. The steps that you take to correct a deficiency are ones that many of us will likely have to follow too.
Being a vegetarian doesn’t mean you can’t follow a healthy diet. Instead, you need to pay closer attention to what you eat. Make it a high priority to include a variety of foods and drinks in your diet. Choose the ones that are nutrient-dense to tick off as many of the boxes as possible. There’s no reason why vegetarian diet can’t offer the same nutritional value as one that includes meat.