Health Matters by Dr Charles Fiscella
Vegetarians need variety in their diet to fight off insufficient protein and nutrient deficiencies
Posted on Saturday, October 27, 2012 at 05:53 AM
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|Variety is key when it come to vegetarianism|
Genetically, humans are programmed for an omnivorous diet. This is because our ancient ancestors, from whom our genes are directly derived, with rare exception, were hunter/ gatherers, combing meat and vegetation for their nutrition. Consequently, the modern diet of sugary, processed foods, including grains (crop grasses) has become very problematic. We are simply not programmed to eat that way.
Some research has shown that vegetarians eat about the same amount of protein as meat eaters, but the bioavailability of that protein is reduced by 10 to 20 percent because some remains trapped within the cell walls of fiber-rich foods which are resistant to human digestive enzymes. This renders an important portion of the protein unabsorbed and unusable.
Vegetarians must find alternative protein sources and consume those proteins appropriately to ensure all of the essential amino acids are included in the diet. This becomes a concern when dairy products are also excluded. Omega 3 eggs and organic dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt help to supply important proteins and nutrients. Soy and soy products are also good sources of protein, however over consumption of soy also poses problems, especially for men by raising phyto-estrogen levels. As a result, male vegetarians tend to have lower free testosterone and diminished anabolic hormone levels resulting in less muscle mass and other issues. Soy mimics estrogen in the body by binding to estrogen receptors, causing shifts in the normal endocrine levels.
The human body can synthesize 16 of the 23 amino acids needed to form complete proteins. Therefore, only 8 essential amino acids (9 for children) have to be provided through the diet. The term “complete protein” refers to proteins in which the essential amino acids are present in their correct amounts. Essential amino acids include isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, valine and histidine.
Complete proteins are found in meat, fish, soy and quinoa.
Whether eating dairy or not, vegetarians need to consume a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes along with nuts & seeds. These are best when combined at meals to insure that all the essential amino acids are available. Unfortunately, grains (which will raise levels of pro-inflammatory omega 6 fatty acids) are necessary in order to provide adequate lysine, isoleucine and threonine.
Flax seeds and borage oil are especially important, especially if fish oil is omitted.
The most common indicators of nutritional deficiencies in vegetarians include fatigue, dry hair, dry skin, fragile nails, frequent infections, immune system dysfunction, anemia, hypoglycemia and osteoporosis. The nutritional deficiencies often seen include iodine, iron, zinc, omega-3 fats, magnesium and vitamin B12. It is important to take a high quality multivitamin/mineral everyday along with additional supplements of those specifically listed. Vitamin B12 has absorption problems and is best supplemented sublingually or in liquid form.