A vegetarian diet is extremely healthy, and more and more people are eating vegetarian (more often). However, what must be taken into account is that deficiencies can arise from an insufficiently balanced diet by eliminating meat. These deficiencies can in turn cause all kinds of health problems. It is therefore good to know which foods are a good source of the necessary substances that we would normally get from meat. By adding these foods to the daily diet, any deficiencies can be compensated for. This way you can easily maintain a vegetarian diet that fits into a healthy lifestyle. There are several nutrients that are important when following a vegetarian diet. These will now be discussed one by one. We will discuss in succession which meat is a source of this, which vegetarian foods are a source of this and where you can recognize deficiencies.
All types of meat contain a large source of protein. However, the largest common source of protein is chicken meat. A less common source, but the highest in protein, are insects. There are a variety of vegetarian foods that are a great source of protein. Examples of these foods include: beans, legumes, lentils, peas, tempeh, miso, eggs, cheese, yogurt, nuts and seeds. There are also a number of superfoods that are a good source of protein, such as spirulina, chlorella and maca.
Proteins are indispensable for your body, as they are used for almost all important physiological processes. For example, proteins are important for growth, metabolism, organ functions and the production of all kinds of important substances. One of the first symptoms of a protein deficiency is breaking nails. Slower wound healing can also be a sign. As the deficiency increases, anemia, shortness of breath, growth retardation, muscle loss, fluid retention and ultimately inflammatory diseases may also occur.
When it comes to meat, beef and lamb contain the greatest source of iron. Also when it comes to iron, there are many different foods that can supplement a deficiency. This includes, for example, green vegetables such as kale, spinach and broccoli. But also good sources of zinc are: beans, lentils, legumes, peas, whole grains, fruit, dried fruit such as dates and raisins, nuts and seeds. Iron can often be better absorbed from plant foods than from meat.
Iron deficiency is more common. Iron is important for the formation of hemoglobin, which is necessary for oxygen transport in the blood and metabolism. Symptoms of an iron deficiency include pale skin, fatigue, shortness of breath and restless legs.
Zinc is found in small amounts in meat and shellfish such as mussels and shrimp. Also with regard to zinc, there are many different foods that can supplement a deficiency. This includes, for example, green vegetables such as kale, spinach and broccoli. But also good sources of zinc are: beans, lentils, legumes, peas, whole grains, fruit, dried fruit such as dates and raisins, nuts and seeds.
A zinc deficiency does not occur quickly. Zinc is important for the construction of proteins, the functioning of the immune system and the growth and development of tissue. Symptoms of a deficiency may include skeletal abnormalities, skin and mucous membrane abnormalities and reduced resistance to infections.
Vitamin B12 is found in animal products, which means that meat is an important source of it. However, there are also other animal products that are a good source of vitamin B12, such as milk, cheese and eggs. Furthermore, nutritional supplements (for example in tablet form) can also provide a solution in case of a deficiency, this is especially important for people on a vegan diet.
Vitamin B12 is important for the production of red blood cells and for the functioning of the nervous system. As a result, a deficiency can lead to anemia and neurological problems.
Essential fatty acids
Certain essential fatty acids (mainly Omega 3) are found in fish and shellfish, and in smaller quantities also in meat. Since not all vegetarians eat fish, substitution is often required. These fatty acids can also be found in eggs and all kinds of oils, such as extra virgin olive oil, sesame oil, coconut oil, linseed oil and walnut oil. For bitches, linseed and walnuts in solid form are also a good source of essential fatty acids.
Essential fatty acids can prevent cardiovascular disease and reduce the symptoms of rheumatism. Signs of a deficiency may include: a lot of thirst, dry skin/hair/nails, allergies, visual problems, attention problems and sleep problems.
Now that more and more people are eating vegetarian (more often), the range of meat substitutes is also increasing. The name meat substitute can be misleading. They are often a good substitute for meat in a certain sense, for example in terms of the number of proteins. But they can be a less good source for other nutrients, for example iron. So know what you’re eating, and don’t blindly assume that meat substitutes alone are enough to get all the necessary nutrients.
If you have any complaints, do not immediately assume that there are deficiencies, but always consult a doctor!