Nutrition

Varieties of Vegetarianism

There are a number of types of vegetarianism, which exclude or include various foods.

  • Ovo vegetarianism:includes eggs but not dairy products.
  • Lacto vegetarianism: includes dairy products but not eggs.
  • Ovo-lacto vegetarianism: (or lacto-ovo vegetarianism) includes animal/dairy products such as eggs, milk, and honey.
  • Veganism: excludes all animal flesh and animal products, including milk, honey, and eggs, and may also exclude any products tested on animals, or any clothing from animals.
  • Raw veganism: includes only fresh and uncooked fruit, nuts, seeds, and vegetables. Vegetables can only be cooked up to a certain temperature.
  • Fruitarianism: permits only fruit, nuts, seeds, and other plant matter that can be gathered without harming the plant.
  • Pescetarianism: includes fish and sometimes other seafood.

 

Vegetarian nutrition is the set of health-related challenges and advantages of vegetarian diets.

Well-planned vegetarian and vegan diets are nutritionally adequate and are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence. A vegetarian diet can provide adequate proteinironzincvitamin B12, and calcium intake, though these nutrients can be relatively low in poorly planned vegetarian diets, particularly when not enough calories are consumed.

Evidence suggests that vegetarians have lower rates of coronary heart diseaseobesityhypertensiontype 2 diabetes,[1] osteoporosis,[2] anddementia.[3] Vegetarian diets tend to be rich in carbohydratesomega-6 fatty acidsdietary fibrecarotenoidsfolic acidvitamin Cvitamin E,potassium and magnesium.

 

Vegetarian diets are usually rich in carbohydratesomega-6 fatty acidsdietary fibercarotenoidsfolic acidvitamin Cvitamin Epotassium and magnesium.

Some essential dietary requirements, which could be missing from a vegetarian diet if it isn’t carefully planned, include:

  • Protein
  • Minerals (including iron, calcium and zinc)
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin D.

Some good plant sources of protein include:

  • Legumes such as beans, peas and lentils
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Soy products including soy beverages, tempeh and tofu
  • Whole (cereal) grains.
  • Quinoa Rice
  • Spirulina

It is recommended that vegetarians and vegans eat legumes and nuts daily, along with wholegrain cereals, to ensure adequate nutrient intakes.

Minerals
If you’re vegetarian or vegan, you need to make sure you get the right amount of essential dietary minerals. Some of these minerals, and suggested food sources, include:

  • Iron – vegetarian and vegan diets are generally high in iron from plant foods; however, this iron is not absorbed as well as the iron in meat. Good food sources of iron include green leafy vegetables, peas and wholegrains, enriched cereals and legumes. Combining these foods with foods high in vitamin C and food acids, such as fruit and vegetables, will help your body absorb the iron.
  • Zinc – performs essential functions in the body, including the development of immune system cells. Good food sources of zinc include nuts, tofu, miso, legumes, wheat germ and wholegrain foods.
  • Calcium – is needed for strong bones and teeth. Good food sources of calcium include dairy products, fortified cereals and fruits juices, fortified soymilk, tahini and some brands of tofu. Leafy dark green vegetables (especially Asian greens), legumes, almonds and Brazil nuts also contain calcium.
  • Iodine – our bodies need iodine for the thyroid gland and other associated hormones to function normally. Iodised salt is the most common source of iodine in the Western diet. Iodine is found in seafood, which is a rich source of this element. Sea vegetables (seaweed) also contain iodine, but are also high in salt.

Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is important for the production of red blood cells – it helps to maintain healthy nerves and a healthy brain. Vegans are at risk of developing vitamin B12 deficiency because it is not found in plant products.

Anaemia is a common result of B12 deficiency. If a breastfeeding mother is following a vegan diet, the lack of vitamin B12 in her milk can interfere with normal brain development of her baby.

Vitamin B12 can be found in dairy products and eggs. There are fortified vegan foods such as some soy beverages and some vegetarian sausages and burgers. If vegans don’t obtain their B12 requirement from these foods, they are advised to take B12 supplements. Vitamin B12 absorption becomes less efficient as we age, so supplements may also be needed by older vegetarians.

Mushrooms, tempeh, miso and sea vegetables are often claimed to be a source of B12. However, this is not accurate. They contain a compound with a similar structure to B12 but it doesn’t work like B12 in the body. They may contain some B12 on their surface, from soil (bacteria) or fertiliser contamination.

Vitamin D
The main source of vitamin D for most Australians is sunlight. There are few foods that contain significant amounts of vitamin D. There is very little vitamin D in most people’s diets unless they eat fatty fish, eggs, liver or foods fortified with vitamin D (such as margarine). Fortified low fat and skim milk is another source of vitamin D, but the levels are low.

Vegans can increase their chances of avoiding vitamin D deficiency by consuming fortified soymilk and cereals. As the sun is also a major source of vitamin D, dietary intake is only important when exposure to UV light from the sun is inadequate – for example, in people who are housebound or whose clothing covers almost all of their skin.