Special Feature

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In this week's edition of "Ask an Assistant," a student asks about must-have nutrients for vegans and vegetarians. Beach Balance Lead Madison Robello provides her expertise on the subject.

Q: What are some "must have" vitamins/supplements for vegans/vegetarians?

A: By Madison Robello, B.S. Candidate - Nutrition & Dietetics

Most nutritional deficiencies seen in vegan and vegetarian diets are those related to animal meat proteins. Common deficiencies include protein, vitamin B12, iron and calcium.

Since vegetarian/vegan diets are restricted to plant proteins, it is often more difficult to reach the optimal amount of protein intake. Furthermore, plant proteins are not what we consider “complete proteins” – foods that contain all essential amino acids and other nutrients like vitamin B12, iron and calcium. This, in turn, could mean vegetarians/vegans are not eating enough protein or obtaining the essential amino acids our bodies need. If you’re following a vegetarian/vegan diet, it is important to combine plant proteins such as tofu and brown rice to vary your amino acid intake.

Another common nutritional deficiency would be calcium, which is predominantly found in dairy products, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Although there are plant-based sources of calcium, they tend to offer small amounts of this mineral. For reference, the USDA contends that the recommended daily intake of calcium is 1300 mg for adolescents between 12 to 18 years old and 1000 mg for adults between the ages of 19 and 50. According to the New Zealand Nutrition Foundation, one cup of milk has 305 g of calcium, while one cup of rice milk has 283 mg.

While most nutrition deficiencies can be improved while maintaining a vegetarian/vegan diet, it may be beneficial to talk to a nutrition professional about the supplements mentioned above. If you want more information and one-on-one counseling to discuss your diet, nutrition counseling services are offered virtually through Beach Balance. Visit asirecreation.org/beach-balance for more information.


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