On Vegetarian and Vegan Nutrition

Vegetarianism is a type of diet in which animal foods are limited or not consumed at all.

Veganism, on the other hand, is a more limited and sharp diet in which no animal products are consumed, as well as products such as wool, silk, leather, since it is obtained from animals; products such as cosmetics, drugs, toothpaste are not used because experimental animals are used; It emerges as a lifestyle and worldview in which the equality of living beings is defended.

Vegetarian Types of Nutrition

1. Semi-vegetarianism is the group that consumes meat products on some days of the week.

2. Lacto-vegetarians who consume only dairy products from animal products 3. Group lacto-ovo vegetarians who consume dairy products and eggs

4. Those who only eat poultry are polo vegetarians

5. Those who consume only fish are called pesco vegetarians.

Vegan Nutrition Varieties

6. Zenmacrobiotics; They are fed with vegetables, fruits, legumes and grains. Some only consume grains. Some avoid saturated fat, cholesterol, and refined sugars. They do not consume gelatin because it is obtained from animals, chocolate because it contains milk, and honey because it is obtained from bees.

7. Fruvitarians or Fruitists; They are fed with fruits, botanically considered fruits such as zucchini, tomatoes, and nuts. They believe that food will return to the soil and join the cycle.

8. Ravisists do not believe in cooking food, thinking that food loses its nutritional value with cooking.

Why Vegetarianism?

The vegetarian diet first emerged for economic reasons. It has been proposed because it is less costly to grow and consume plants than animals, and to consider the sustainability of resources.

The slaughter of animals in Buddhism and the consumption of some animals in Christianity, Judaism and Islam are prohibited for various reasons.

According to the religious teachings of Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism, products derived from animals while alive are allowed to be consumed.

This diet spread in Europe as the famous philosopher Pythagoras adopted vegetarianism for ethical reasons and other people were influenced by it.

Today, with the increase in scientific research, reasons such as living a healthy life, ensuring ecological balance, preventing climate change, leaving a world where future generations can live have been added to ethical reasons and continue to attract people’s attention day by day.

Health Issues

If applied unconsciously, it can also cause deficiencies in terms of vitamin B12, vitamin D, iron, calcium and zinc minerals. These can cause serious diseases such as anemia and osteoporosis.

Since the mid-1990s, many people in Sweden have adopted a vegan diet. Ethical reasons were the basis of this change. Consumption of only vegetable products instead of products of animal origin such as eggs, meat and fish, without making them equivalent, caused concerns. Various nutritional supplements have been used to make up for the deficiencies.

According to the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Italian Society for Human Nutrition, well-planned vegetarian diets can have positive effects on health by providing adequate nutrient intake in the prevention and treatment of some diseases.

Health Benefits

Antioxidants, fiber, polyphenols, carotenoids, flavonoids and phytochemicals that are beneficial to health are abundant in vegetarian nutrition.

Since it is a diet with low processed food content, the risks of chronic diseases such as heart diseases, diabetes and chronic kidney disease are lower than other individuals.

With a good nutrition program, the immune system can be strengthened and a long and healthy life can be maintained.

It is known that vegetables and fruits, which we frequently see in a vegetarian diet, reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, some types of cancer, obesity, and death.

It has been reported in the literature that the risk of colorectal cancer is low in vegetarians or individuals with low meat consumption.

It is known that high potassium intake in vegetarians is associated with a low risk of hypertension, thus it can be interpreted that it has a positive effect on blood pressure.

Macro and Micro Nutrients


It is known that cereals, legumes and good quality soy products are used as protein sources in plant nutrition.

When Rand et al. examined animal, vegetable and mixed food types, they could not find a difference in terms of nitrogen balance and proved that the protein requirements of individuals with animal or vegetable diets were similar.

It is thought that vegetarians are deficient in amino acids, especially essential amino acids. Since the essential amino acid amounts of plant foods are low, various combinations of protein intake should be increased.

Like consuming legumes and grains together.

Fats and Fatty Acids

The vegetarian/vegan diet generally has lower levels of total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol than non-vegetarian diets.

Omega-3 fatty acids have important functions such as cardiovascular health, prevention of inflammation, retinal and brain development, and the best sources are seafood.

The long chain n-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, are mostly found in fish, eggs and algae.

Vegetarians with low or no seafood, egg and algae consumption had low DHA levels in plasma and phospholipids.

Dietary Fiber

Wheat bran, fruit hulls, whole grains are among the insoluble fibers. They increase the transit time of food through the intestines. They are not digested in the human intestine and may prevent the intake of some nutrients. These include essential fatty acids and some minerals such as magnesium, calcium, zinc, iron.

Vegetarian individuals should pay attention to their intake as they take 50-100% more dietary fiber than omnivores and mineral deficiencies are also common. If attention is paid to preparation and cooking methods, it is possible to prevent vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

High fiber intakes are also counted among the reasons why type-2 diabetes risk is observed to be lower in vegetarian individuals.

High fiber intake from legumes, grains, vegetables and fruits is beneficial for weight control by providing appetite regulation with an improved intestinal environment.

In addition, thanks to a high fiber and low-fat diet, intestinal microbiome development is provided by increasing the synthesis of short chain fatty acids by intestinal bacteria.


Meat, liver, fish, milk, eggs, cheese as animal source of zinc; As herbal sources, almond kernels, walnuts, dried beans, wheat bran, bulgur, wheat, soybeans, cashews, sunflower seeds and lentils are available (22;8).

Since the best sources are animal sources, its deficiency is frequently encountered in vegetarian individuals. In addition, excessive intake of phytates, calcium, phosphate, iron and alcohol may prevent zinc absorption.

Daily fiber intake of 25 grams should not be exceeded. Soaking for several hours is helpful to reduce the phytate content of beans, grains and seeds.

Vitamin D

The active form of vitamin D, the best source of which is the sun, was found at lower levels in vegetarian individuals than in individuals consuming meat and fish.

However, omnivorous individuals who do not use vitamin D fortified foods or supplements may also have low serum 25-dihydroxy vitamin D levels. Supplementation of ergocalciferol (vitamin D2), the herbal form of vitamin D, is also effective in maintaining normal serum vitamin D levels.

Vegetarian individuals, yeasts and mushrooms that have received ultraviolet light as a source of vitamin D, milk, orange juice, breakfast cereals and margarines can be consumed.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is absorbed in the ileum and stored in the liver and animal muscle, and since it is produced in nature only by microorganisms that synthesize this vitamin, people can meet their needs from the foods they consume.

Generally, the best sources of vitamin B12 are animal foods such as meat, milk, eggs, offal, tuna.

B12 deficiency can cause pernicious anemia, inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, short bowel syndrome, megaloblastic anemia, cognitive performance decline and neurological disorders.


Its main job is to carry oxygen, and it is also a necessary mineral for supporting the immune system and cognitive performance. It is mostly found in animal products. Legumes, grains and grape molasses are also good sources.

According to current literature information, rates of iron deficiency anemia in vegetarians and non-vegetarians are close. It has been observed that the incidence of anemia due to deficiency is higher in female vegetarians in the premenopausal period.

Phytates, oxalates and tannins in cereals form compounds with iron and prevent its absorption. In addition, dietary fiber consumption, excess of aluminum, calcium, zinc and magnesium, and insufficient protein in the diet are among the factors that reduce iron absorption.

Organic acids such as vitamin C and citric acid can be used to increase the bioavailability of non-heme iron in herbal products. The effectiveness of compounds such as phytate and polyphenols that will prevent absorption can thus be reduced.

It is possible to prevent this deficiency with a balanced diet.


In addition to its effect on bone and dental health, calcium has important functions such as blood coagulation, release of intracellular and extracellular enzymes, nerve conduction, heartbeat control and mineral balance.

Milk and dairy products, molasses, sesame, nuts, green leafy vegetables, legumes and dried fruits, moderately eggs and green vegetables can be counted as the best sources of calcium.

Calcium intake levels are similar in lacto-ovo vegetarians and omnivores, but lower in other vegetarian groups and vegans. In the long term, the rate of bone mineral density in vegans is higher in lacto-ovo vegetarians.

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