HomeHealth articlesnutrition deficiencyWhat Nutritional Deficiencies May Occur From a Vegetarian Diet?

Nutritional Deficiencies of a Vegetarian Diet - Myths and Facts

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Besides its benefits, the vegetarian diet can lead to certain nutritional deficiencies. Take a look at the article below to know their details.

Written by

Dr. Zeba Jabeen

Medically reviewed by

Neha Suryawanshi

Published At January 5, 2023
Reviewed AtMarch 22, 2023


Vegetarian diets are continuously gaining momentum. There are many reasons for following the vegetarian diet; some health benefits include decreasing the risk of heart diseases, diabetes, and certain cancers.Yet, some people rely almost completely on processed foods, which can be unhealthy and high in calories, sugar, fat, and sodium. At the same time, they may need to incorporate sufficient fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other nutrient-rich foods, thus losing the nutrients they contain.

However, with a little forethought, proper knowledge, and planning, a vegetarian diet can fulfill the requirements of folks of all ages, such as children, teenagers, and pregnant or breastfeeding females. The basic is to know the nutritional needs of a particular individual so that a specific diet plan can be organized to meet them.

Which Nutritional Deficiencies Can Occur With a Vegetarian Diet?

The nutritional deficiencies that are most common with vegetarian diets are as follows:

  • Vitamin B12: It is synthesized by bacteria and is mainly found in animal food items like dairy products, meat, insects, and eggs. However, several plant-based foods are reinforced with vitamin B12, such as nutritional yeast and certain plant milk, and adding such items to vitamin B12 successfully prevents and treats its deficiency.

  • Calcium: It is required in building and maintaining strong teeth and bones. Milk and other dairy products are the highest in calcium content. Dark green vegetables, like turnip, kale, and broccoli, are good plant reserves. Some choices include calcium-enriched and fortified food items, like juices, cereals, yogurt, and tofu,

  • Vitamin D: It is the sunshine vitamin. Combined with calcium, it plays an important role in maintaining bone health. Vitamin D can be easily attained from sun exposure. However, the time for sun exposure should be limited, and it does not take much effort to get vitamin D. For those with maximum indoor time, like people living mostly through winter in the northern hemisphere, supplementation is necessary.

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: It is an essential fatty acid imperative for good heart health. Though fish and eggs are considered rich sources of omega-3 fats, they can also be found in chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, and hemp seeds.

  • Zinc: It is one of the components of different beans, legumes, and whole grains. But, an important consideration is that phytic acid present in these plants can interfere with zinc absorption. However, by immersing or sprouting grains and beans before cooking.

  • Iron: Though iron from plants takes more time to absorb, consuming a diet with varied options of whole plant foods ensures sufficient iron. Iron is found in leafy green vegetables, whole grains, lentils, peas, and dried fruits. In addition, an adequate amount of foods loaded with vitamin C also aids in iron absorption.

  • Protein: Protein provides healthy skin, bones, muscles, and organs. Eggs and milk products are good reserves of protein. Certain plant-based foods can render optimal protein. Some protein sources are soy products, meat alternatives, legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.

  • Iodine: Iodine is one of the components of thyroid hormones, which assist in controlling the metabolism, growth, and functions of vital organs. Vegetarians may not be able to obtain sufficient iodine and may develop a deficiency and even develop goiter. Additionally, soybeans, cruciferous vegetables, and sweet potatoes may support a goiter. However, only 1/4th teaspoon of iodized salt daily gives a notable amount of iodine.

How to Plan a Healthy Vegetarian Diet?

To get the most profits from a vegetarian diet, opt for a variety of healthy plant-based foods, like whole fruits and vegetables, legumes and nuts, and whole grains. Also, eliminate the less healthy options like sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juices, and refined grains. Preferably, consult a registered dietitian who can help design a vegetarian plan that is best for a particular person.

Fresh vegetables are one of the most nutrient-dense foods bestowed by nature. Therefore, the solution to attaining total-body health and longevity of life is to adopt a balanced diet, irrespective of which type of diet it is.

One may also need to pay attention to taking in some supplements to ensure that the person is consuming the appropriate quantity of key nutrients. For example, go for a vegan or vegetarian multivitamin that carries vitamin B12, iodine, and zinc, but do not consume any iron additives until the doctor advises. Vegan or vegetarian protein powders can also be tried to supplement a person’s protein consumption if required.

Remember that the more limited your diet is, the more difficult it can be for you to obtain all the nutrients you need. A vegan diet, for instance, cuts off natural food sources of vitamin B12 and dairy products that possess calcium.

How to Switch Healthily to a Vegetarian Diet?

Switching to a vegetarian diet can be done by slowly decreasing the meat and its products while increasing the number of fruits and vegetables. Here are some tips to assist a person in getting started:

Ramp up Gradually: Every week, increase the number of meatless feeds you already enjoy, like spaghetti in adjunct with tomato sauce or vegetable stir-fry. Look for methods to add greens, like spinach, kale, collards, etc., to the daily meals.

Try Alternatives: Try your favorite recipes without meat. For instance, make vegetarian chili by eliminating ground beef and adjoining some extra black beans. You may be astonished that several dishes only need simple alternative ingredients.

Branch out: Search the internet for vegetarian menus and get vegetarian cookbooks. Look out for restaurants to sample new vegetarian cuisines. The more diversity you bring to your vegetarian diet, the more likely you can meet all your nutritional requirements.


If a person observes or plans to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle, he may need to initially put in the effort to learn about its appropriate nutrient sources. One’s health is one of his greatest assets, so he should give his best to protect and maintain it.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Is the Most Important Nutritional Issue for Vegetarians?

Diets that are primarily vegetarian may rely too much on processed foods that are high in calories, fat, sugar, and salt. Vitamin B (12), vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, iron, and zinc are nutrients to watch out for in vegetarians' diets. 


What Nutrient Shortages Do Vegetarians and Vegans Face?

A vegan diet, in particular, increases the risk of 
- Vitamin B12.
- Vitamin B2.
- Various mineral deficiencies, including calcium, iron, and zinc. 


What Effect Does Being a Vegetarian Have on Nutritional Health?

Some nutrients can be present in vegetarian sources in lesser concentrations or are more difficult for the body to absorb. Calcium and protein are often in sufficient supply for vegetarians. But if they do not carefully organize their diet, they risk missing out on important nutrients.


Is B12 Insufficiency Prevalent in Vegetarians?

Inadequate levels of vitamin B12 are present in the body of the majority of vegetarian Indians, despite the fact that taking pills to cure a Vitamin B12 shortage is relatively straightforward.


Do Vegetarians Suffer From Protein Deficiency?

Yes, vegetarianism is becoming more and more of a health concern because of the long-term effects of protein shortage. As a key component of tissue, cells, and muscle, protein is an essential building block for the body.


Do Vegetarians Get Enough Vitamin D?

Due to restricted dietary sources and sun exposure, vitamin D insufficiency is more commonly an issue for the entire community than it is only for vegans. Both omnivores and vegans should be aware of this nutrient.


What Are the Signs of Vegetarian Iron Deficiency?

Signs of vegetarian iron deficiency is anemia, a condition that results from poor red blood cell formation and too little iron in the body. Anemia symptoms include weariness, headaches, pale complexion, low body temperature, and dizziness.


What Amino Acids Are Deficient in the Vegetarian Diet?

Protein deficits are less frequent with vegan diets than amino acid deficiencies. Vegans may be deficient in the following amino acids:
- Leucine.
- Lysine.
- Amino acids that include sulfur.


Why Do Vegetarians Lack Proper Nutrition?

The higher fiber content of plant meals may be responsible for the vegetarian's lower average body weight. Plant fiber instantly makes one feel full, which may prevent them from nibbling or binge-eating later in the day.


What Exactly Is the Distinction Between a Vegetarian and a Vegan?

A vegetarian abstains from eating any animal flesh, including fish, poultry, and meat. A severe form of vegetarianism, veganism forgoes any products produced from animals, including dairy and eggs.


Does Paneer Have Vitamin B12?

Yes, especially for vegans, paneer is a great source of vitamin B12. Along with calcium and protein, a cup of paneer contains a staggering 1.1 mcg of vitamin B12.


Where Do Vegetarians Acquire Their Iron?

The following all include non-heme iron that vegans can consume: 
- Dried beans and legumes.
- Leafy green vegetables.
- Dried fruits.
- Nuts.
- Seeds.
- Wholegrain cereals and breads.


What Are the Top Five Health Advantages of Becoming a Vegetarian?

The following are the health advantages of becoming a vegetarian:
- Decreases the risk of cancer.
- Reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Reduces blood pressure.
- Reduces the symptoms of asthma.
- Strengthens bones.


Is It True That Vegetarians Are Healthier?

Yes, in general, vegetarians are lighter and have a lower incidence of cancer than meat eaters. The evidence also points to a link between a vegetarian diet and a reduced chance of dying from specific cardiac conditions.
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Neha Suryawanshi
Neha Suryawanshi



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