Home Fertile Kitchen Trying To Conceive As A Vegetarian


Being a vegetarian or a vegan can be a very healthy lifestyle. It centers around a plant based diet and, although there still temptations in junk food, being a vegetarian usually lends itself well to eating right. I was a vegetarian for many years and like me, most vegetarians are very well educated on how to have a balanced diet with the right amount of protein. The average person's protein needs will vary, and there are differing opinions in the literature for what the protein needs are for men and women. It's estimated that the average sedentary person should get 46 grams (women) to 56 grams (men) per day. This can vary based on body mass and the amount of physical activity. Pregnancy increases your protein needs to about 70 grams per day (again, this can vary based on body weight, exercise and so on). What may be even more important than the actual protein is the other nutrients that vegetarians may miss. This article explains more:

Six Common Nutrient Deficiencies in a Vegetarian Diet

Six Common Nutrient Deficiencies in a Vegetarian Diet
By Penny Crowther

Vegetarianism is a healthy way of eating if done properly. However there are 6 nutrients which require careful attention in a vegetarian diet, in order to avoid deficiency symptoms.

deficiency is common, particularly amongst vegetarians. Vital not only for strong bones and preventing osteoporosis, this vitamin has recently been found to play an important role in immune and cardiovascular health and insulin regulation. Vitamin D is made by the body in the presence of sunlight but with the increased use of high SPF factors, we are generally not obtaining adequate vitamin D by this means. The principle food sources for vegetarians are dairy foods. Foods fortified with vitamin D such as breakfast cereals and margarine are often not particularly healthy. Most vegetarians would do well to supplement vitamin D in a strength of 800-1000iu daily, more if a blood test shows very low levels of vitamin D.

2. Zinc is very important for the immune system and for reproductive health in men and women. It is an essential component of healthy sperm. Vegetarians should ensure adequate intake of this mineral through frequent consumption of pumpkin, sesame & sunflower seeds. Pine nuts, pecans, cashew nuts, peas, seaweed, lentils, oats are other good sources. A poor sense of taste or smell, reduced appetite, frequent infections and white spots on the nails may be signs of zinc deficiency. Stress, alcohol and pollution deplete zinc levels. A high fibre vegetarian diet is likely to interfere with zinc absorption.

3. Vitamin B12 is required for healthy nervous system function, healthy blood and the prevention of anaemia. It is only found in animal food sources, the richest sources being meat and fish. There is a smaller amount in dairy foods. Suggestions that algae may be a source have not been proven.

Persistently low iron despite supplementation may be due to a B12 deficiency. Very low energy and tingling sensations in the body may also be present and elevated levels of homocysteine, a risk for stroke. B12 is not well absorbed orally. Look for a sublingual (dissolved under the tongue rather than swallowed) B12 lozenge.

4. Vitamin A (Retinol) is only found in dairy foods in a vegetarian diet. Beta carotene, the vegetable form of vitamin A is found abundantly in orange and yellow fruit and vegetables but not everyone efficiently converts beta carotene into vitamin A. Healthy skin, gums and prevention of recurrent infections (including thrush and cystitis) are dependent on adequate Retinol levels. Vegetarians with an underactive thyroid are particularly likely to have poor vitamin A conversion.

5. Iron is required to maintain good energy levels, resistance to disease and healthy skin tone. Meat, fish and poultry are the only sources of heme iron which is absorbed more efficiently than non heme iron from vegetarian sources such as soya beans, dried apricots, seeds, lentils, cashew nuts, dark green vegetables & wheatgerm. Female vegetarians of child bearing age have a particularly increased need for iron.

6. Essential Fats such as omega 3 and 6 are to be found in nuts, seeds and oils such as hemp, walnut or flax. These fats are vital for mood, brain, hormone and immune function. Dry skin is usually a sign that more essential fats are needed. As with vitamin A conversion, it relatively common for there to be inefficiency in converting the omega 3 and 6 into the highly usable forms, DHA/EPA and GLA. For this reason vegetarians would do well to take a capsule supplement of algae-derived DHA and evening primrose oil to provide GLA.

Penny Crowther is a nutritional therapist with 14 years in clinical practice in London and Bournemouth, UK. Personalised programmes for energy, IBS & digestive problems, pre-conception, cardiovascular health. Consultations in person or by Skype.

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