However, there are essentials that veg-heads may miss out on when cutting meat out of their diets. We talked with a few experts to find out which nutrients and vitamins vegetarians may not be getting enough of, and what foods or supplements they should seek out in order to ensure they are getting a nutritionally-fortified diet.
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While vegetarians can get some zinc through the consumption of foods such as beans, nuts, dairy and whole grains, it's not always enough. According to the National Institutes of Health, "the beans and grains [vegetarians] typically eat have compounds that keep zinc from being fully absorbed by the body." Because of this, the NIH informs, "vegetarians might need to eat as much as 50 percent more zinc than the recommended amounts."
Not looking to consume more beans than you can handle? Luckily, the mineral is also available in a variety of multivitamins and supplements (such as the Bulletproof Zinc with Copper, $12.95).
Samantha Cassetty RD, spokeswoman for OMG! Nutrition, says, "The simplest way to increase iron absorption from plant-based foods is to include a source of vitamin C with meals." An additional little trick she shares is "to use a cast iron skillet when cooking meals since this will transfer some of the iron to your foods." Considine adds that "lentils, soy beans, pumpkin seeds and a variety of greens" are all great sources of iron.
At any rate, it's important to keep your iron levels up, since low iron can lead to anemia. Symptoms of this condition include a weakened immune system, lack of energy, and trouble concentrating.
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Luckily, it's not hard to boost your intake: Considine says that the vitamin "can be found in mushrooms or even just thirty minutes of daily sun exposure." And if lots of sun (or mushrooms) aren't for you, you can always go the supplement route. "I often recommend a vitamin D3 supplement," says Cassetty, explaining that it can be difficult to find naturally in many foods. Hum Nutrition has the Here Comes the Sun Vitamin D Supplement, $20, if you're looking for a popular option.