4 minute read

Are You Getting Enough Nutrients from Your Vegetarian Diet? 

Published June 3, 2023

Recently, with the influx of interest in plant-based eating, vegetarian diets have been increasing in popularity. Following a vegetarian diet means that you cut out all meat and meat products, maybe even dairy and eggs, while eating more plant-based foods. There are many health benefits to beginning a vegetarian diet including weight loss and lowering your risk of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.  

However, certain vitamins and minerals that are naturally found in meat, poultry, and seafood may be lacking in a vegetarian diet, which could lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies and serious health problems. Though, it is important to note that more than just what you eat influences how nutrients work in your body. Other factors include genetics, age, health conditions, medications, metabolism, and how well your body absorbs nutrients. 

To start off on the best footing, it is valuable to be aware of any deficiencies before starting a plant-based diet to ensure you are not already deficient in any of these nutrients. That way, you don’t become more deficient and further impair your health when you eliminate certain foods from your diet. If you have any health issues, concerns, or questions, you should talk with your doctor before starting a vegetarian diet. 

Types of vegetarian diets

A vegetarian diet includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains (wheat or other grains in products like bread, pasta, and cereals), nuts and seeds, and legumes. Some variations of vegetarian diets include the following: 

  • Lacto-vegetarian – includes eggs and dairy products 
  • Ovo-vegetarian – includes eggs, but no dairy products 
  • Lacto-ovo vegetarian – includes both dairy products and eggs 
  • Pescatarian – includes fish and seafood 
  • Vegan – excludes all meat and meat byproducts 

If you are following or considering a vegetarian diet, you may want to get tested for vitamin deficiencies to modify your diet if necessary. 

Quest Vegetarian Diet Vitamin Deficiency Test Panel 

We make checking the levels of several important micronutrients easy with the Quest Vegetarian & Vegan Diet Vitamin Deficiency Test Panel. This panel measures the levels of vitamin B1, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, iodine, iron, omega-3, omega-6, and zinc in your blood to help detect any deficiencies common to a vegetarian diet. It’s available to purchase online; no doctor’s visit is required. 

Common vegetarian diet vitamin/mineral deficiencies 

Depending on the type of vegetarian diet you follow, you may be missing the following micronutrients: vitamin B1, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, iodine, iron, omega-3, omega-6, and zinc. These are all essential nutrients that your body needs to function properly. Our bodies don’t produce these vitamins and minerals, so we must get them daily from food or supplements.  

B vitamins are necessary for turning your food into energy, and vitamin D and calcium are crucial for strong bones. Iodine works with your thyroid to produce hormones your body uses to function correctly. Iron is needed to carry oxygen and help your body grow and develop properly. Omega-3 and omega-6 are fatty acids that aid in blood clotting, cell growth, and muscle function, all of which affect many parts of our bodies. Zinc promotes chemical reactions in the body, helping it grow, building proteins and strengthening our immune systems. 

Dietary alternatives for a vegetarian diet  

It is possible to get most of these nutrients, even while following a vegetarian diet. Because meat is eliminated, it’s important to find plant-based sources of protein and other vital nutrients. These are some ideas for alternative foods that contain those needed vitamins and minerals that may be lacking.  

Vitamin B1 is found in whole grains, beans, lentils, green peas, sunflower seeds, cereals, breads, noodles, and rice. Vitamin B6 is found in dark leafy greens, carrots, sweet potatoes, green peas, bananas, oranges, cantaloupe, papaya, and chickpeas. Vitamin B12 is found in eggs and dairy products like milk and cheese, fortified grains and breakfast cereals, soy and rice milk, and nutritional yeast. Vitamin D is added to dairy milk and plant milks like almond and coconut.  

Calcium is generally associated with dairy products, including milk, cheese, and yogurt. But vegetarians can also get it from fortified plant milk and orange juice, winter squash, soybeans (edamame), tofu, leafy greens, fruits, beans, and almonds.  

Vegetarian sources of iodine include seaweeds (dulse, kelp, nori) iodized table salt, strawberries, prunes, and cranberries, and even some fortified some cereal grains. 

Although the iron found in meat is more completely absorbed by your body, it is in many plant sources like vegetables, fruits, nuts, maple syrup, and blackstrap molasses.  

Omega-3s, which need a proper balance with omega-6s, are found in seafood. The type of omega-3 fatty acid in vegetarian sources is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA is found in seeds, flaxseed oil, soybeans, nuts, kale, and spinach. Omega-6 fatty acids are naturally found in walnuts, tofu, peanut butter, sunflower seeds, and safflower oil. 

Zinc found naturally in meats is more completely absorbed than zinc found in plant foods. However, vegetarian foods such as tofu, tempeh, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fortified cereals, and dairy products can also be good sources. 

Test your micronutrient levels with Quest 

Quest is here to support you on your journey to good health. We offer a convenient way to check vitamin and mineral deficiencies commonly associated with a vegetarian diet. The Quest Vegetarian & Vegan Diet Vitamin Deficiency Test Panel is available to purchase online today. 

No doctor visit is required to buy your own lab test at questhealth.com. PWNHealth and its affiliates review your purchase to ensure it is medically appropriate before submitting the test order for processing. PWNHealth also reviews your test results and will contact you directly if they require prompt attention. Included in each purchase is the option to discuss your test results with an independent physician; however, you are also encouraged to speak with your primary healthcare provider. 


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