11. Not Getting Enough Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential part of the diet.
They have been shown to reduce blood triglycerides, alleviate inflammation and protect against dementia (35, 36, 37).
Fatty fish and fish oil are the most common sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
They contain docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), the two forms of omega-3 fatty acids that have been shown to be the most beneficial.
On the other hand, plant foods contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid that your body must convert to DHA and EPA to use (38).
Unfortunately, your body is only able to convert about 5% of ALA to EPA and less than 0.5% to DHA (39).
To meet your omega-3 needs while following a vegetarian diet, eat a good amount of ALA-rich foods or consider taking a plant-based omega-3 supplement like algal oil.
Foods highest in ALA omega-3 fatty acids include chia seeds, walnuts, hemp seed, flaxseeds, Brussels sprouts and perilla oil.
Including a few servings of these foods in your diet each day can easily help you meet your omega-3 fatty acid needs.
SUMMARY:Plant foods contain ALA, a type of omega-3 fatty acid that your body can only use in small amounts. Vegetarians should consume a good amount of ALA-rich foods, or use a plant-based supplement.
12. Eating Too Many Refined Carbs
Many vegetarians fall into the trap of replacing meat with refined carbs.
Unfortunately, pasta, bread, bagels, cakes and crackers often end up as main ingredients in a poorly planned vegetarian diet.
During processing, refined grains are stripped of the beneficial fiber that is found in whole grains.
Fiber helps ward off chronic disease, keeps you feeling full and slows the absorption of sugar to maintain steady blood sugar levels (21, 40).
A high intake of refined carbs has been linked to a greater risk of diabetes, as well as an increase in belly fat (41, 42).
To maximize the nutrients in your diet, switch out refined grains like white bread, pasta and white rice for whole grains such as quinoa, oats, brown rice and buckwheat.
Additionally, make sure you’re pairing those whole grains with plenty of whole fruits, vegetables and legumes to keep your diet balanced and nutritious.
SUMMARY:Instead of replacing meat with a lot of refined carbs, vegetarians should consume whole grains as part of a healthy diet.
The Bottom Line
A balanced vegan or vegetarian diet can be very healthy and nutritious.
However, these diets can also lead to nutrient deficiencies and potential health problems if they aren’t well-planned.
If you’re just getting started eating this way, check out this article.
To achieve a healthy vegan or vegetarian diet, simply eat plenty of whole foods and make sure you’re regularly consuming a few key nutrients.