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Women and Vegetarian Diets: care needed

old message Women and vegetarian diets: care needed Darrell Miller 07/27/05


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Date: July 27, 2005 09:54 AM
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Subject: Women and vegetarian diets: care needed

Nutritional trends have dictated especially to women to eat less meat and more vegetables and fruits. While only about one percent of North American men are vegetarians, it is estimated that four times this number of women do not eat meat. In addition, it is evident that even more women try to avoid dairy products (though in what proportion is not clear). While at first glance, this may seem good, nutrition surveys of vegetarian women have shown that they are deficient in some very essential nutrients. In fact, vegetarian women tend to have lower levels of calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamins D and B12. For women who eat some animal products, the levels of each of these nutrients increases. Of course, the highest levels of these nutrients are seen in women who do not restrict their diets to nonanimal foods. Calcium and iron are two of the nutrients most lacking in diets of both vegetarians and omnivores.

These results do not mean a vegetarian diet is unhealthy but that it needs better planning than most people give it. It also indicates that women at risk for deficiencies of the nutrients listed above are not getting them from diet or supplements. In fact, most women (and men, for that matter) have individual dietary needs that can only be determined by that individual.

If you follow a special diet, keeping a diet diary for a week and then analyzing it for the nutrients listed above will give an indication about its nutritional adequacy. (But only an indication since all nutrients should be supplied by the diet.) This type of service is usually available from a Registered Dietitian, but you can do it yourself with a good reference book that contains tables of nutrient content of foods. Once excellent source is an upcoming title by Dr. Allan Spreen, to be published in May. The name of the book is Nutritionally Incorrect: Why the American Diet is Dangerous and How to Defend Yourself From It. TH



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