First thing's first (and this is important): There's nothing wrong with avoiding meat, as going on a plant-based diet touts incredible benefits, such as glowing skin, and a healthy hear. However, not eating meat can cause anxiety about getting enough nutrients, as it's harder for vegans and vegetarians to get some of the same, key sources, from plant-based foods, as readily, explains healthy lifestyle coach Liz Traines over email with Bustle. It's generally easier for meat eaters, so it never hurts to be extra cautious; however, if you're mindful with your meat-free sources, there are so many benefits to eating a plant-based diet, explains Traines.
As a certified health coach, I help clients create a diet and lifestyle that works for their preferences and needs. I also work with vegans and vegetarians, who have dietary restrictions that can cause complications in getting in enough vitamins, protein, and fats, in order to have more balanced hormones, stronger bones, and a happier mood and outlook. It's easy to go vegan or vegetarian and not eat well, but as long as you're making sure to get enough nutrients, it can make for an excellent and healthy dietary choice that could boost health and happiness longterm. Here are 11 things that people who don't eat meat should be more wary of, as such deficiency can mess with their productivity, energy, and overall wellbeing. There's no reason to put down your quinoa, black bean burger, though. Just make sure your sources are nutritious and empowering.
1. Not Getting Enough Iron
If you're not getting enough iron, a nutrient abundant in animal protein, and one that is incredibly absorbable in animal sources, you might be at risk for fatigue and lower energy levels in the day, as opposed to meat-eaters. Such low stores can mess with productivity and physical ability. Eat lots of leafy greens, beans, and tofu to get enough in, as these foods are generally higher in iron and can be combined for greater intake.
2. Not Getting Enough Protein
If you're not getting enough protein, you might experience food cravings and decreased performance, especially when it comes to strengthening, building, and repairing muscles, advised Joseph Colella, M.D., author of The Appetite Solution over interview with Cosmopolitan. If you're working out, amp up the protein even more. Look for greens, whole grains, and plant based protein, such as nuts, legumes, and tofu.
3. Not Getting Enough Fats
Over email with Bustle, Lauren Blake, R.D., The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center says that "omega-3, found in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines, walnuts, and flaxseed improve both memory and mood. Research suggests that low omega-3 levels are associated with depression, pessimism, and impulsivity." While there are plant-based omega 3 sources, such as the flax and walnuts, these items aren't absorbed as easily as those in fish.
4. Feeling Tired & Moody
Blake explains that not getting sufficient B vitamins and protein can result in more fatigue and negative change in mood, and it's especially worrisome if you don't eat meat and aren't eating enough plant-based options that are high in these essential nutrients. "Some studies also show that insufficient thiamine (found abundantly in cauliflower, eggs, cereal grains, pork) can cause fatigue, inactivity, and poor mood," says Blake.
5. Less Efficient Workouts
Vegans and vegetarians can get amazing workouts, as long as they eat enough complex carbs with a little protein and healthy fat, and with so many choices (avocado, quinoa, lentils, nut butter, whole grain toast, etc.), it should be simple. However, sometimes the plant-based fuel isn't enough, if it's in adequate ratios and quantities, advises running coach and personal trainer Susie Lemmer over email with Bustle. Make sure to fuel up properly before and after working out, advises Lemmer.
6. Not Getting Vitamin B12
According to Dr. Mercola on his website, vegans and vegetarians are more likely to miss out on the essential nutrient, vitamin B12, as it's found in animal protein and can't be made by the body on its own. This nutrient helps the body function and balances mood and energy levels, Mercola advised. Take a supplement daily to guarantee adequate intake.
7. Not Getting Vitamin D
In an interview with vitamin D researcher Dr. Robert Heaney, Dr. Mercola also advised that vitamin D can be lacking in diets of people who are vegan or vegetarian. Mercola explained that the source of vitamin D is from sunshine, as well as some animal foods, like fish, in particular, and it can be harder to absorb from a plant-based diet. Taking a daily supplement could help.
8. Thinning Hair
According to "Proceedings of the Nutrition Society," and again reported in Livestrong, thinning hair can result from a zinc deficiency, and often zinc foods are outside of a plant-based diet. For instance, shellfish, beef, pork, and chicken are high in this nutrient, while grains, seeds, beans, and nuts are slightly lower and less absorbable.
9. Brittle Nails
Over interview with Huffington Post, dermatologist Jessica Wu, M.D. explained that a low intake of zinc and iron can result in dry, brittle nails, as well as white flecks that can signify a calcium deposit. Unfortunately, vegans and vegetarians can be lower in these nutrients due to a greater difficulty with finding direct sources. Eat foods high in these nutrients, or take a supplement.
10. Lower Testosterone
On the health website Authority Nutrition, Kris Gunnars, BSc, explained that non-meat eaters are often lower in testosterone than traditional meat-eaters, and such a deficiency can signal problems for building and repairing muscles and joints, as well as keeping the cell membrane functioning strong.
11. Eating Too Much Junk
Over interview with Shape, Rachel Begun, MSRD, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics said that vegans and vegetarians who mistake meatless, packaged foods for being healthy, or who eat more pastas, granolas, and candies, as opposed to real protein sources, vegetables, and fruits, are at risk of nutritional deficiency and weight gain.
There's no reason why you can't have a full, balanced, and healthy diet as a vegan or vegetarian. If you notice these complications when trying a meat-free diet, you might want to meet with a physician to discuss how best to go about supplementation and whole foods sourcing so that you can feel healthier and happier with this new dietary change.
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