While there are many health benefits of being strictly vegetarian, there’s a risk that your child’s will be deficient in vitamins A and B-12 – because being vegetarian means you’re not eating foods that have these vitamins.
Virtually all your B-12 intake comes from animal products such as beef, fish, chicken, ham, yoghurt, cheese and many more. You may pick up a trace of B-12 in fortified foods, but it’s a scant dosage at best.
And what happens when B-12 is deficient? Red blood cells don’t form properly, DNA synthesis is compromised and neurological function suffers. These are just three of the essential functions that can go very wrong.
But you can avoid compromising your child’s health simply by taking supplementary vitamins to get an ample daily dose of B-12.
The vegetarian’s essential supplement checklist
According to Dr. Allan Spreen of North Star Nutritionals
, as a vegetarian, you MUST include vitamin B-12 in your supplement regimen.
When meat is absent from your diet, there’s really no other way to get this important B vitamin in adequate amounts.
“Besides the B-12, add some conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), as that form only comes from being processed within an animal. Getting enough of the omega-3 oils in general is a problem, as the ratio tends to be more omega-6 in vegetarians (no fish),’ says Dr Spreen.
Also add some saturated fat
since butter and lard (animal fat
) are out if you’re a vegetarian.
Dr Spreen adds that iron will also be a problem if you’re a vegetarian, especially since only animal sources provide iron in a form that “insulates its oxidative effects from the body within a heme ring.” So add an iron supplement.
Lastly, you can also add a vitamin D supplement if you don’t get enough sun exposure daily.
Overall, Dr Spreen recommends 1mg (1000mcg) of B-12 per day in sublingual form (dissolved under the tongue), for everyone regardless of your diet.