Vegetarianism is a way of controlling food consumption that can benefit the body as a whole. Many researches have shown that it helps to decrease cholesterol levels in the blood, lessens the likelihood of coronary thrombosis, diabetes, and various cancers, especially colon cancer, and helps with weight loss. However, vegans, who do not consume eggs and dairy products are much more susceptible to vitamin deficiencies and malnutrition.
Vitamin B12 is found primarily in meat. According to several studies, 92% of vegans experience vitamin B12 deficiencies, resulting in anemia, exhaustion, and a greater likelihood of coronary artery disease.
Iron can be found in leafy vegetables as well as in meat; however, the absorption of the iron found in leafy vegetables is less effective and different in form. Iron is very important and is responsible for producing red blood cells. Women of reproductive age are most susceptible to iron deficiencies.
Vitamin D can be found in sunlight, and such foodstuffs as milk, eggs and fish. Vegans, who do not consume milk and eggs, are likely to experience vitamin D deficiencies. In addition, the consumption of vitamin supplements can be counterproductive. An inappropriate volume of vitamin supplement consumption cannot solve vitamin D deficiencies.
Proteins are an essential element in our body. Usually, we need 30 to 60 grams of protein a day, depending on our weight, our age, and the activities we perform. Amino acids derived from proteins are essential for proper muscle function and the production of hormones. It is recommended that vegetarians consume protein from other sources such as soybeans, tofu, egg whites, mushrooms, textured vegetable proteins (soy derivatives), quinoa, and beans.
Calcium helps to prevent osteoporosis. Vegans, who do not consume milk and dairy products, are likely to suffer from calcium deficiencies, resulting in osteoporosis. To counter this type of deficiency, it is advisable to consume green leafy vegetables, soy milk, black sesame and seaweed.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids are found in fish and some types of grains such as flaxseed or linseed. Linseeds look like sesame seeds but they are larger in size. They can be ground and roasted and used in making many type of foods. Linseed can be mixed with soybeans or cereals. Omega-3 Fatty Acids are essential for our bodies; a shortage of Omega-3’s can cause an imbalance in our body that makes us susceptible to many diseases.
Those who are vegetarians or vegans for a very long time and who are not certain whether they are at risk of malnutrition can take a Lifestyle Medicine checkup. The test is designed to ensure the wellbeing of your body by looking for signs of vitamin and mineral deficiencies caused by strict diets.
The First Class Honors Medical Degree, Faculty of Medicine, Ramathibodi Hospital, Mahidol University Faculty of Medicine Ramathibodi Hospital, Mahidol University , 2000