There are many reasons people opt to go vegetarian. Improved health, a desire to improve the environment, and concern for animal welfare are commonly cited reasons to ditch meat. A vegetarian does not eat any meat, poultry, or fish, but eggs and cheese are allowed. Although vegetarian diets are perfectly healthy for most people, some additional planning is needed to get all the necessary vitamins, minerals, and more previously covered by meat. A registered dietician (RD) or healthcare provider may recommend these 4 supplements.
Required to help regulate mood, memory, and muscle control, choline is an essential nutrient found in many foods. However, plant foods, such as legumes and tofu, are generally much lower in choline than animal foods. Vegetarians can meet the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) by taking a choline supplement while eating plant-based.
2. Vitamin B12
Plant-based foods do not naturally contain vitamin B12, so vegetarians must take a supplement to get enough of this important vitamin. Recent studies show 21–41% of vegetarian adolescents are low in B12, with even more pronounced deficiencies seen in the elderly and pregnant populations. Vitamin B12 helps make deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and keeps the body’s blood and nerve cells healthy. People who don’t get enough of the vitamin are at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency anemia, which can be serious.
3. Vitamin D
All people, including vegetarians, should make sure to get adequate amounts of vitamin D. The sunshine vitamin is essential for the absorption of calcium, which helps the body build strong bones. Vitamin D also helps the immune system fight off infections and allows the nerves to carry messages between the brain and the body. Although many vegetarian foods contain vitamin D, including egg yolks, mushrooms, and cheese, an additional dietary supplement can ensure levels are on par.
4. Extra protein
Since many protein sources are animal-based, vegetarians need to make an extra effort to get sufficient amounts. Protein makes up the body’s hair, nails, bones, and muscles, repairs cells, and helps with growth and development. A simple protein powder is a great way to add this essential nutrient while eating plant-based. Protein powder can be mixed in a morning smoothie, added to oatmeal, or even put in coffee.
Stay healthy without meat
No longer eating meat and dairy means certain vitamins will be removed from the diet. However, many great vegetarian sources can help meet nutritional needs. Additionally, when dietary sources are lacking, a supplement can help make up for what is missing. Getting extra choline, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and protein is the best way to stay healthy and strong while eating plant-based. Vegetarians can speak with an RD, healthcare provider, or pharmacist about diet or supplement questions.