Possible Deficiencies from a Vegetarian Diet

Protein

Protein provides the amino acids necessary for tissue growth and is especially important for growing children. Of the many roles proteins have some of the highlights are the production of tissue growth, hemoglobin, antibodies, hormones (including insulin for blood sugar regulation), enzyme production, detox support for the liver and production of neurotransmitters for the brain. Amino acids are also critical for the production of neurotransmitters – the chemical messages used throughout our body and brain. Healthy neurotransmitters are critical for good mental health.

Recommended Dietary Allowance
  • Females 9-13 34grams/day
  • Females 14 and older 46grams/day
Sources
  • Eggs, meat, fish, poultry, milk, and cheese are considered complete sources of protein. Vegetarians should eat egg or milk products once a day.
  • Legumes – These are much more digestible when soaked overnight with sea vegetables (eg. Kombu) before cooking.
  • Soybeans are very difficult to digest and best eaten sprouted or fermented, eg in miso, soy sauce, and tempeh. Keep in mind that soybeans heavily sprayed and genetically modified. The phytoestrogens disrupt endocrine function and the soy may increase the body’s need for B12 and D. Processed soy foods are rich in trypsin inhibitors which hinder protein digestion. I would avoid any processed soy products and consume only the fermented forms.
  • Nuts and seeds – Good sources of protein however they can be rancid and they do contain phytic acid. Soak and dehydrate before consuming.
  • Grains – Quinoa, amaranth. Be aware of the phytic acid in grains and soak before using.Because legumes, nuts, seeds and grains to not contain a complete mix of amino acids, they are not considered complete proteins. It is best to combine them to achieve optimal health – eat each component within in day.
    • Grains + Legumes
      • Rice and lentils, Millet and adzuki beans, Wheat and peas, Bean burritos, Beans and corn
    • Seeds/Nuts + Legumes
      • Hummus – Garbanzo + sesame
    • Grains + Eggs/Milk
      • Quiche, Rice and Eggs
    • Vegetables + Eggs/Milk
      • Cream soups, Salad with eggs, Frittata
  • Micro-Algae – Spirulina, chlorella, and wild blue-green micro-algae. 1 teaspoon of spirulina has close the the same amount of protein as 1 ounce of beef though this not complete
  • Bee Pollen and Royal Jelly – A rich source of protein and B12.
Protein Deficiency

Weak muscles and nails, hair loss, slow healing wounds, low energy, hemorrhoids, degradation of mental concentration and emotional stability, poor immune response leading to allergies and infections.

B12

This “energy” vitamin helps the body’s utilization of protein, fats and carbohydrates and helps iron function better to prevent anemia. The body stores B12 so deficiency may take while to appear.

Recommended Dietary Allowance
  • Females 9-13 1.0 mg/day
  • Females 14 – 50 1.2 mg/day
  • Females 50 and older 1.5 mg/day
Sources
  • Animal protein foods – Meat, fish (oily fish like trout, herring, and mackerel), shrimp, oysters, eggs, milk products, especially live cultured yogurt (not sugared yogurt).
  • Fermented food – tempeh, miso may have small amounts in other countries, however in our modern processing facilites we rarely find B12 in the fermented foods
  • Nutritional Yeast – It is high in many B vitamins and B12 may be added to the yeast. Nutritional yeast is also high in phosphorus which could deplete the body of calcium. It can also increase the amounts of candida-type years in the body
  • Bee Pollen and Royal Jelly
Supplements

Injections are available for therapeutic doses. One 50mcg/week can help. Consume with enzyme rich foods to maximize the uptake – miso, unpasteurized sauerkraut, unpasteurized pickles.

Vitamin A

A fat-soluble vitamin that is stored in the body. Vitamin A. Helps with eyesight, growth and tissue healing, healthy skin, antioxidation, lowering cancer and supporting immune function. Also enhances production of RNA.

Recommended Dietary Allowance
  • Females 9-12 2,000 IU/day
  • Females 14 and older 3,000 IU/day
  • These values should be considered the minimum. Adults can consume 5,000-10,000 IU/day.
Sources
  • Liver and fish oil, egg yolks, and milk products – butter, cream and whole milk.
  • Cod liver oil – It is an excellent source of vit. A and D.
  • Yellow and orange colored fruits and vegetables – these contain beta-carotene which can be converted to retinol (vit. A). It requires the presence and bile and fatty acids to assimilate (eg. butter, olive oil, coconut oil). Note it takes the body 6 units of carotene to make 1 unit of vitamin A.
  • Leafy, green vegetables – Kale, parsley, watercress, turnip, collard, beet, mustard and dandelion greens. Green sources of carotene convert twice as much of their carotine to Vit. A than yellow and orange food.
  • Blue-green algae – spirulina
  • Palm Oil – It’s oily matrix makes the carotenes more easily converted to vitamin A.
Supplements

Synthetic supplement such as palmitate or acetate have a potential to produce toxic symptoms.

Vitamin A Deficiency
  • Night blindness; eye inflammation; rough dry pre-maturely aged skin; loss of smell; increased infection, allergies, dandruff. The body needs zinc to release stores; absorptions is reduced with alcohol use. When deficient in A the body losses C faster.
  • Note the importance of soaking grains, nuts and seeds to reduce the phytate content. The phytate bind with vitamins and minerals (especially zinc) pulling them from our bodies.

Iron

Every cell in the body has iron in it and it’s mostly combined with protein; the hemoglobin molecule accounts for 60-70% of the iron used. Iron is needed for growth so is very important during infancy, childhood, adolescence and pregnancy. Women during child bearing years can become deficient due to losses during menstration (30-40g are lost each cycle)

Recommended Dietary Allowance
  • Females 9-13 8 mg/day
  • Females 14-18 15 mg/day
  • Females 19-50 18 mg/day
  • Females 51 and older 8 mg/day
Sources
  • Nonheme iron – a vegetable source is not easily absorbed.
  • Heme iron – comes from flesh foods such as beef and liver; only 10-30% is absorbed
  • Vegetable sources: Broccoli, alfalfa sprouts, cherries, garbonzo beans, kale, spirulina, chlorella and wild blue-green algae, parsley, seaweed, especially arame.
  • Cook with an iron skillet
Supplements

Ferrous iron is better absorbed than ferric iron – vitamin C in gut will convert ferric to ferrous iron. Take 250mg of Vit. C with iron and preferably between meals. Vit. E should not be taken with iron.

Deficiency

Vegetarians have a hard time absorbing enough iron. Phytates and oxalates compound this problem by binding to the iron and making it unabsorbable. Absorption may also be reduced with the consumption of soy protein and high amounts of calcium.

Symptoms include weakness, fatigue, loss of stamina, anemia, increased infections, irritability, learning difficulties, and muscle fatigue. Don’t consume lemons or limes when deficient.

Iron Overload

Symptoms include chronic fatigue, arthritic joint pain, impotence, depression, hypothyroidism, atherosclerosis, premature menopause, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. A meat diet with a multivitamin containing iron may be too much for some especially men who don’t lose much iron.

B6 (Pyridozine)

Pyridozine (B6) is used by the body in many ways including amino acid metabolism, energy production, antibody and red cell production, enhancing DNA and RNA function, balancing sodium and potassium and converting tryptophan to serotonin (an antidrepessant neurotransmitter). It is especially important for women as it helps with hormone balance and water shifting. Women on birth control pills need more B6 due to the higher levels of estrogen.

Recommended Dietary Allowance
  • Females 9-13 1.0 mg/day
  • Females 14-50 1.2 mg/day
  • Females 51 and older 1.5 mg/day
Sources
  • Meats, especially organs and liver, fish and poultry
  • Egg yolks
  • Soybeans, dried beans, peanuts and walnuts.
  • Whole grains – wheat germ, refined wheat flour has no B6, whole wheat bread has very little.
  • Vegetable/Fruits – bananas, prunes, potatoes, cauliflower, cabbage, collard, turnip, mustard greens, garlic, mushrooms, spinach, bell peppers and avocados.
Deficiency

Nervous symptoms, skin problems, amino acid/protein metabolic, muscle weakness, nervousness, irritability, depression, visual issues, cracks and sores at corners or mouth and eyes, water retention, morning sickness, birth difficulties.

Vitamin D (Calciferol)

Regulates calcium metabolism, determines calcification of the bones, effects minerals in our teeth. In other words it gives children good healthy bones and teeth. Calcium, magnesium and Vit. D should be taken together for good bone health.

Recommended Dietary Allowance
  • Children 5 mcg (200 IU)
  • Teenagers 5 mcg (200 IU)
  • Male and Females 50 and under 5 mcg (200 IU)
  • Male and Females 51-70 10 mcg (400 IU)
  • Male and Females 71 and older 15 mcg (600 IU)
Sources
  • D2 – derived from plants does not have all the same functions as D3; D2 is more associated with toxicity issues and may contribute to atherosclerosis; commercial milk is fortified with
    D2. This is not recommended.
  • D3 – animal forms of D can be converted into D3
  • Fish Liver Oil – cod liver oil is the traditional sources of A and D
  • Egg yolks, butter, liver, oily fish (mackeral, salmon, sardines, & herring) – have some D
  • Mushrooms, dark leafy greens – contain some D
Deficiency

Vegetarians and anyone living in the northern latitudes such as Oregon needs to supplement. Chronic pain, chronic kidnet disease, Crohn’s disease, hyperparathyroidism, osteoporosis, osteopenia, rickets, osteomalacia – poor bone mineralization, myopia, hearing loss and possibly MS.