Holistic Nutrition For Vegetarians – How To Do It
Vegetarian diets are becoming more and more popular, and there are a variety of reasons why people choose to follow them.
These reasons can vary from environmental concerns to health benefits.
As a holistic nutritionist, it’s important that you are able to accurately work with your vegetarian clients in order to meet their health goals.
If you want to learn how to become a nutritionist in Canada or wherever it is you live, it’s important that you learn about the nutritional needs of vegetarians in order to successfully count them among your clientele.
Now, let’s dive in.
What Is A Vegetarian?
A vegetarian is a classification that includes various attitudes and eating habits towards foods of animal origin.
For example, a pescatarian is a type of vegetarian that does not eat meat or poultry, but will eat fish and other seafood.
Another example is that being vegan is also a type of vegetarian diet that only eats foods of plant origins.
Why Do People Choose To Be Vegetarians?
There are a number of reasons why people choose to follow a vegetarian diet.
Some people are concerned about the effects of factory farming on their climate.
Others are concerned about the welfare of animals in factory farms.
Finally, there are also health concerns that persuade people to follow a vegetarian diet.
Some people just physically don’t feel good eating animal-based products, and that’s okay.
Is A Vegetarian Diet Healthier?
Now, this is the question about following a vegetarian diet.
Are they actually healthier?
The answer is that it can be.
There is a growing body of research that shows that a well balanced vegetarian diet offers preventative measures against high blood pressure and other cardiovascular issues, osteoporosis, renal disease, dementia, and even rheumatoid arthritis.
It can also help prevent cancer.
Benefits Of A Vegetarian Diet
There is a multitude of benefits that following a vegetarian diet can bring to your clients.
We’re going to go through some of the major concerns that come to your client’s mind when considering the benefits of a vegetarian diet.
1. It’s Good For Your Heart
Studies have shown that vegetarianism reduces the risk of hospitalization from heart disease.
Studies have also shown that following a vegetarian diet reduces the risk of high blood pressure.
Together, reducing the risk of both heart disease and high blood pressure is a solid step forward for overall heart health.
As your clients age, this will become a greater concern for them.
Of course, following a vegetarian diet is not the only way to look after your heart.
But the benefits can’t be denied.
2. Decreases Risk Of Diabetes
Studies have shown that following a vegetarian diet led to a decreased risk of developing diabetes.
A vegetarian diet is a great option to consider, especially if your client has a family history of developing diabetes and they are looking to reduce their risk.
3. It Lowers Your Risk Of Some Cancers
Studies have also shown that following a vegetarian diet confers protection against certain cancers.
In particular, a vegan diet tends to lower the risk of gynaecologic cancers, and a vegetarian diet lowers the risk of gastrointestinal cancers.
As a result, certified holistic cancer practitioner training often includes training in the benefits of a vegetarian diet.
If you have a client with a family history of these cancers, they may want to consider a vegetarian diet.
Risks Of A Vegetarian Diet
While there are many benefits to following a vegetarian diet, it is not without its share of risks.
This is because a poor vegetarian diet that relies too heavily on processed foods is equally as unhealthy as a non-vegetarian diet that relies on processed foods.
Consuming too much of any type of processed food involves consuming excess calories, sugar, trans fat, and sodium.
It’s important to remind your clients that just because something is vegan doesn’t make it healthy.
Oreo cookies, for example, are technically vegan, but no good holistic nutritionist would suggest them as a healthy snack.
It’s also possible if you’re not getting a balanced vegetarian diet to be deficient in several important nutrients.
This is usually due to poor meal planning and exactly why consulting a nutritionist is recommended for clients new to vegetarianism.
A poorly planned vegetarian diet could also lead to anemia, hypoglycaemia, hormonal imbalances, and dental problems.
The following list includes common vitamin deficiencies that may arise following a vegetarian diet and how to compensate.
1. Calcium Deficiency
Calcium is a mineral that helps to build and maintain strong bones and teeth.
Because calcium is most abundantly found in milk and dairy foods, certain types of vegetarians that don’t eat dairy (like vegans) could be at risk for a calcium deficiency.
Dairy isn’t the only place to find calcium though.
How To Make Up For It
You can also find calcium in dark green vegetables like turnips, collard greens, kale, and broccoli.
You just have to eat a sufficient amount of them to maintain your calcium levels.
Calcium can also be found in fortified juices, cereals, soy milk, and tofu.
You may consider taking calcium supplements as well, but if your clients are eating a balanced diet it shouldn’t be an issue.
2. Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Vitamin B12 is found almost exclusively in animal products.
As a result, it is a vitamin that all vegetarians are at risk of being deficient in.
This is a problem because it’s a very important vitamin that is necessary to produce red blood cells and to prevent anemia.
It’s also worth noting that vegans specifically may not realize they are vitamin B12 deficient because the vegan diet is typically rich in a vitamin called folate, which may mask the deficiency until severe problems occur.
Vitamin b12 is known to be one of the vitamin deficiencies that cause depression as well.
How To Make Up For It
This vitamin is very important and so it’s recommended for vegetarians to consider vitamin B12 supplements, or vitamin B12 enriched cereals and soy products.
3. Omega-3 Deficiency
Omega-3 fatty acids are very important for heart health.
They’re also beneficial for eye health.
Vegetarian diets that do not include fish and eggs are generally lacking active forms of omega-3 fatty acids.
How To Make Up For It
You can make up for it by considering products fortified with omega-3 fatty acids or supplements.
This is because while you can find them in walnuts, flaxseeds, and soybeans, your body has a harder time converting plant-based omega-3 fatty acids.
This means that you will absorb a lot less than what you actually intake, which is why we recommend going with the former option.
4. Iron Deficiency
Iron is another important mineral that is a vital part of red blood cells.
It can be found in both animal and plant sources, however iron from plant sources is not so easily absorbed by your body.
As a result, many vegetarians tend to be iron deficient and are recommended to intake twice as much iron from plant sources as non vegetarians.
Beyond being a vegetarian, iron deficiency during pregnancy is also common.
How To Make Up For It
The plant sources of iron include dried beans, peas, lentils, enriched cereals, whole-grain products, and dark, leafy green vegetables.
Since these are plant-based sources, you’ll want to help your body absorb the iron you intake by including foods rich in vitamin C while you’re eating the plant-based iron.
Some sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, strawberries, and tomatoes, all of which go well in a salad with dark, leafy green vegetables containing iron.
5. Iodine Deficiency
Iodine is a mineral that is an integral part of your thyroid hormones which regulate your metabolism, organ function, and general growth.
Vegans specifically may be at risk for being iodine deficient because it is commonly found in animal products.
How To Make Up For It
One of the most common sources of iodine is in iodized salt.
While this is an easy way to make up for your lost iodine, a diet heavy in iodized salt has too many health drawbacks that come along with it.
A healthier way to make sure you get enough iodine is to include the following foods in your diet:
- Lima beans
- Green beans
- Spring mix greens
Contact The Edison Institute Of Nutrition Today
As you can see, there are a number of health benefits to following a vegetarian diet.
That being said, there is also a number of risks of deficiencies.
It’s your role as a holistic nutritionist to accommodate any dietary limitations your clients throw at you.
To get educated, contact the Edison Institute of Nutrition todayto get started and speak to one of our educational advisors.