A vegetarian diet can be very healthy and comes with the obvious ethical and environmental benefits. However, you won't automatically be healthier if you just cut out meat. Like everyone vegetarians need to make sure they are sticking to the 6 basic dietary needs:
- Eat at least 5 portions of fruit and veg every day.
- Base meals on starchy carbohydrates (go wholegrain if you can).
- Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (like soya).
- Choose unsaturated oils and spreads (avoid trans fats).
- Make sure you get plenty of protein (eat beans, pulses, eggs and nuts).
- Drink plenty of liquids (Squash Stix are a great healthy way to spice up your water).
If you stick to these and are sensible about what you eat a vegetarian diet can be very healthy. Studies have linked vegetarian diets to multiple health benefits such as, lower risk of excess weight, heart disease, and even some types of cancer.
But be aware that some nutrients are either very hard or nearly impossible to get from a plant based diet. It is therefore vitally important to know which nutrients are often lacking and take supplements especially if you are someone who exercises a lot and want to reach peak performance. Check out our blog on nutrient deficiencies common in runners!
Below are 3 key nutrients that plants alone cannot supply.
Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that’s almost exclusively found in animal-sourced foods, such as fish, meat, dairy products, and eggs with meat and fish containing the highest amounts of B12. Studies have shown that without supplements or enriched foods, vegetarians are at a high risk of vitamin B12 deficiency.
The symptoms and risks associated with vitamin B12 deficiency include: ➜weakness ➜ fatigue ➜ impaired brain function ➜ neurological disorders ➜ psychiatric disorders ➜ possible links to Alzheimer’s disease ➜ possible links to heart disease
Some plant-based foods do contain small amounts of B12, Nori seaweed is considered the best source. No matter how much seaweed you eat you cannot get enough from plants alone. Taking a B12 supplement is advised to make sure vegetarians are getting their daily B12. Vit Stix are a great way to do this, each sachet makes a 500ml of delicious vitamin drink with 25% of daily B12 plus B5, B6, C, D and Zinc!
Creatine is a nutrient stored in muscles, with significant amounts being concentrated in the brain. It functions as an easily accessible energy reserve for muscle cells, giving them greater strength and endurance and is essential for those doing long distance cycling or running.
Creatine is only naturally found in animal tissues so those on a vegetarian diet need to take a supplement. Recent studies have also shown that taking a creatine supplement results in a significant increase in brain function and physical performance for vegetarians but not for meat eaters. This is attributed to the fact that non-vegetarians already get sufficient creatine form their diet, but vegetarians do not. Vegetarian friendly creatine supplements can easily be ordered online.
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient with many important functions. Known as the sunshine vitamin, it doesn’t have to come from your diet. When your skin is exposed to sunlight it can produce Vitamin D. However, those of us lucky enough to live in Northern climes like the UK (lucky? yer right) do not get enough sunlight. The NHS recommends all of us take a vitamin D supplement from Oct – March.
Vitamin D in our diet comes in 2 varieties — ergocalciferol (D2) found in plants and cholecalciferol (D3) found in animal-based foods. Of these, D3 (cholecalciferol) is more efficiently absorbed into the blood stream than D2 (ergocalciferol). The main source of D3 are fatty fish and egg yolks meaning those reliant on a plant-based diet are often deficient.
It is advised that vegetarians take a vitamin D supplement especially if you live in northern climes. Vit Stix are a great way to top up your vitamin D! Each Stix has 50% of your daily vitamin D3 plus the added bonus of containing B5, B6, B12, C (required to absorb iron which is often lacking in vegetarian diets) and zinc! You get all those vitamins plus a delicious drink they are perfect for vegetarians particularly the active ones amongst us!
Vegetarian diets can be a very healthy and beneficial, but it is important to consider all aspects including vitamins and nutrients. B12, D3 and Creatine are incredibly hard or even impossible to get from vegetarian diets. Supplements are a great way to make sure to hit daily vitamins recommendations and Vit Stix are a delicious handy drink to achieve those goals!
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