Q What vi­ta­mins and min­er­als could I be miss­ing if I fol­low a vege­tar­ian, ve­gan or flex­i­tar­ian diet?

Clean Eating - - BITS & BITES FOODIE FAVES -

A/ There are sev­eral key nu­tri­ents to pay at­ten­tion to if you’re eat­ing lit­tle or no meat, fish or other an­i­mal prod­ucts: vi­ta­min B12, vi­ta­min D, omega-3 fatty acids and iron. Vi­ta­min B12 is found pri­mar­ily in an­i­mal prod­ucts, and a de­fi­ciency can cause ane­mia and de­men­tia. Con­sum­ing for­ti­fied plant­based milks and for­ti­fied nu­tri­tional yeast can help supply B12. Although vi­ta­min D de­fi­ciency is far from exclusive to veg­e­tar­i­ans, non-meat-eaters may be more likely to lack this nu­tri­ent, which helps main­tain bone health and im­mune func­tion. If your blood lev­els of vi­ta­min D, as mea­sured by a 25-hy­drox­yvi­ta­min D, or 25(OH)D test, come back low (typ­i­cally less than 10 ng/mL), con­sider a vi­ta­min D sup­ple­ment. Omega-3 fatty acids are plen­ti­ful in some fatty fish such as salmon and mack­erel, as well as grass­fed an­i­mals, and help fight in­flam­ma­tion. Although omega 3s can also be found in leafy greens, nuts and flaxseeds in the form of al­pha-linolenic acid (ALA), their con­ver­sion to the es­sen­tial forms of eicos­apen­taenoic acid (EPA) and do­cosa­hex­aenoic acid (DHA) is low. For a ve­gan omega-3 sup­ple­ment, al­gae oil is a good op­tion. Iron poses a sim­i­lar risk: Though plen­ti­ful in many plant foods, the non­heme form of iron found in plants is less ef­fec­tively ab­sorbed by the body than the heme iron found in an­i­mal prod­ucts. Ve­g­ans, veg­e­tar­i­ans and flex­i­tar­i­ans who eat a var­ied, bal­anced diet of whole foods can avoid de­fi­cien­cies, but they may need sup­ple­ments. Con­sider meet­ing with a Reg­is­tered Di­eti­tian Nu­tri­tion­ist, who can help make sure your nu­tri­tion plan is com­plete.

Reg­is­tered di­eti­tians Tiffani Bachus and Erin Mac­don­ald are the co-founders and cre­ators of URock­Girl.com, a web­site ded­i­cated to pro­mot­ing well­ness and a healthy, bal­anced life­style.

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