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How Safe is Vegetarianism?

Becoming a vegetarian is a smart choice when it comes to losing weight and improving your overall health and well-being. Yet, going meatless does present it’s challenges. Here are a half dozen risks that are unique to non-meat eaters.

Vitamin D Deficiency

We get Vitamin D from a number of sources, including plants and the sun. However, Vitamin D3 can only be sourced from animal meats. D3 is important for the strength of your bones. Not having enough of it can lead to osteoporosis, and muscle weakness. Your risk of fractures and falls will also be increased. To make sure that you are protecting your bones, you should take a calcium supplement to strengthen them.

Zinc Deficiency

Zinc is essential for a strong immune system. Most people get the majority of their zinc from beef and lamb. Vegetarians will want to make sure that they are getting a plentiful supply of the third most abundant source of zinc; sunflower seeds. Supplementing with a multi mineral that is rich in zinc will also boost your levels.

Iron Deficiency

Without enough iron in our system, we feel run down and sluggish. A main reason is that iron helps to transport nutrients through the blood to provide energy to your muscle cells. When your iron levels drop below a certain level, you develop a condition called anemia. Anemic people have an elevated heart rate, and are constantly fatigued. Meat provides a plentiful supply of iron to our bodies. Vegetarians can ensure that they don’t become anemic by eating lots of leafy green vegetables, soy based products and nuts. Another great source of iron is chocolate. Supplementation is another option.

Stress

A 2012 study, published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, found that vegetarians were more anxious than meat eaters. Researchers compared mental health exam results for 240 vegetarians with those 240 meat eaters. The vegetarians had a higher prevalence of psychiatric issues. The criteria for an anxiety disorder was met by 31% of the vegetarians, as opposed to 13% of the meat eaters. When it comes to the reasons behind the higher stress levels, science cannot provide an answer. But the researchers did speculate that it may be due to the deprivation of certain nutrients, stress over what you can eat and the pressure of complementing your foods to ensure that you’re plugging the nutritional gaps that vegetarianism creates.

Depression

The 2012 study cited above also revealed that depression was more common in vegetarians than in meat eaters. While just 10% of meat eaters had symptoms of depression, among vegetarians, that number more than doubles to 24%. The scientists conducting the study postulated that this may be related to low levels of Vitamin B12, which is common among vegetarians. B12 is plentiful in chicken and red meats. It was also suggested that depressed people are likely to try a vegetarian diet in order to improve their mental outlook.

Eating Disorders

Going back to the 2012 study, we find that almost 4 percent of vegetarians have displayed signs of an eating disorder at some point in their lives. Just 0.8% of the meat eating group had experienced an eating disorder. The eating disorder signs that were considered were binging, purging, taking diet pills or severely restricting their caloric intake. Another 2012 study, which was published in the Journal of the academy of Nutrition and Dietitics, looked specifically at the inter-relationship between vegetarianism and eating disorders in females. This study revealed that female vegetarians were four times more likely to suffer from an eating disorder than people who were meat eaters. A third study, also conducted in 2012, suggested that almost half of all people with an eating disorder followed some form of vegetarian diet.

Conclusion

Vegetarianism is a healthy way to lose weight, improve your health and receive the nutrients that you need to operate at your best. But when you take on the vegetarian lifestyle, you also need to ensure that you’re getting the nutrients that meat eaters take for granted. A great way to do that is to take  daily supplement that is boosted with such essentials as zinc, iron and Vitamin D.  Doing so will allow you to enjoy the benefits while avoiding the traps of the vegetarian lifestyle. Click here for a complete breakdown of the pros and cons of vegetarianism.

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