Last week we talked about the , which include a decreased likeliness in contracting conditions like heart disease and high cholesterol.
However, it's important to go into a vegetarian diet understanding that by reducing your meat intake, you're also reducing your intake of certain essential vitamins, too.
For instance, by reducing your meat intake to a few times a week, the amount of iron that your body needs to effectively carry oxygen to the blood goes down. The body easily absorbs iron from sources like red meat and dark chicken, but iron from plant-based sources isn't as easily absorbed.
This unintended consequence of reducing one's meat intake is the topic of discussion this week: what each type of vegetarian is missing and how to find what's needed in a magic supplement bottle.
First, we need to distinguish the different types of vegetarians. There are actually four classifications: semi-meatless, pesco-vegetarian, lacto-ovo-vegetarian and vegan. We're only getting into the first two today, and we'll save the others for next week.
A semi-meatless diet simply applies to people who limit their meat intake to a few times a week, while a pesco-vegetarian doesn't eat any meat aside from fish.
Now that we have semi-meatless and pesco-vegetarian diets generally defined, we can begin getting into what each diet lacks in the nutritional pool. Iron is lacking in all four vegetarian diets across the board, and since iron isn't easily absorbed into the system with plant sources, vegetarians need a supplement containing nearly double, 1.8 times, the amount of iron than non-vegetarians would.
According to the magazine Eating Well, vitamin C helps with the absorption of iron from plant-based foods, so grab a small glass of all-natural OJ with pulp—the fibrous pulp makes the body work harder to digest and thus doesn't affect blood sugar levels as rapidly—and take it along with an iron supplement.
Semi-meatless and pesco-vegetarian folks can also turn to fortified whole-grain foods like cereals, pastas and brown rice, and should supplement their diets naturally by eating legumes and leafy greens for iron as well.
Some of the most iron-rich legumes include kidney, lima, navy and black beans, while other items like soy beans and peanuts are particularly beneficial because of the zinc they contain, which is important for a healthy immune system.
Semi-meatless and pesco-vegetarians should look for supplements containing iron and zinc and should take a daily multivitamin for extra insurance.
Supplements can be found at most stores for around $15-$40, and many stores carry their own brands at a lower cost.
Floradix, Vitamin Code, and Raw Iron are good choices for iron supplements, while New Chapter Organics is a good zinc supplement brand.
For a multi-vitamin, check out Mega Food, Rainbow Light and Garden of Life, Vitamin Code brands.
These products are available at New Leaf Community Markets at and at and at .
Rainbow Light, Complete Iron System is available at , and Rainbow Light multi-vitamins are available at Walgreens, at , at 1718 Soquel Ave. in Santa Cruz and at .