Many people start vegetarian and vegan diets without
devoting an adequate amount of time to nutritional
research and meal planning. As a result, a considerable
amount of people who start vegetarian diets do not last
for more than 1-2 months.
Many dieters who fail to carefully research and plan
complain that they lack energy – and often experience
a significant loss in muscle mass. Others observe a
number of other more peripheral problems that come with a
poorly-planned vegetarian diet.
The first group–the group that most failed dieters fall
into–is actually experiencing a form of protein-energy
malnutrition (PEM). PEM emerges when a person fails to
consume enough protein, leading to muscle loss – and
subsequently feelings of weakness that are often
accompanied by head and muscle aches.
This problem can be circumvented by dietary alterations.
A vegetarian who is experiencing PEM should either a) find
out what foods contain what amino chains, so they can
combine them to form proteins; or b) start consuming
larger amounts and more diversified sources of protein,
such as nuts, soy milk, and yogurt.
The first group is often iron-deficient as well. Because
vegetarians can only consume nonheme iron, which
is more sensitive to iron inhibitors, they often do
not consume enough to maintain healthy blood-iron
levels. This can cause pervasive weakness and
Most nutritionists suggest that vegetarian and vegan
dieters consume roughly twice the recommended amount
of iron while greatly reducing their consumption of iron
People in the second group–the smaller one–who suffer
from a range of other peripheral, diet-related problems are
often not consuming enough of the nutrients that they would
normally take in unknowingly on a diet that includes meat
and dairy products. These nutrients include, for example,
zinc, calcium, vitamin b, and riboflavin.
Some recent studies have suggested that vegetarians
also process certain types of foods with less
efficiency because they consume different amounts
and varieties of absorption inhibitors and enhancers.
Recent studies also suggest, however, that
a vegetarian or vegan diet, when done right, is
not only as healthful as a non-vegetarian diet, but it
is also much more heart-healthy – and usually
contains higher amounts of antioxidants.
What does this all mean for you as a prospective
vegetarian? It means that eating a healthful vegetarian
diet is not only a good alternative to your current diet,
but it can also lower your chances of getting heart
disease and cancer.