Although a vegetarian diet can be a healthy one, many vegetarian women need to pay extra attention to ensure they get all the vitamins they need in their diet. Some vitamins are only found in animal products such as meat and dairy. If you go with a completely vegan diet, you will need to take certain vitamins.
A deficiency in vitamin D can lead to weakened bones and osteoporosis, since it helps the body absorb calcium, which is needed for strong bones. Most dietary sources of vitamin D are animal-based, such as fish and eggs yolks. One great source of vitamin D is the sun. Unfortunately, wearing sunblock prevents your skin from absorbing the vitamin. You can find vitamin D added to a number of foods from orange juice to cow’s milk to soy milk. There are two synthetic forms of the vitamin, D2 and D3. D2 is derived from a yeast and is vegan while D3 is derived from wool. If you are vegan, check to make sure the product you are consuming uses D2. Soy milks typically use D2. You can also take a multivitamin that contains D.
You need vitamin B12 to produce red blood cells and DNA and for proper neurological function. While B12 is abundant in animal products such as meat, cheese and eggs, it’s not found in any plant foods naturally. You may be able to get enough B12 if you eat dairy or eggs, but if you are completely vegan, you will need to find B12 in fortified products or by taking a supplement. B12 is often added to soy milk and a product known as nutritional yeast, which is often added to vegan recipes and has a tangy, almost cheese-like taste. If you decide to take vitamin B12 supplements, make sure you take a vegetarian tablet. Aim for at least 25 to 100 mcg of B12 each day.
Nearly everyone knows that carrots and other orange vegetables and fruits are a good source of beta carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A. The preformed version of the vitamin is only found in animal products, though, so vegetarian women need to make sure they eat enough beta carotene-containing foods to allow their bodies to produce enough of the vitamin. Your body can usually absorb the beta carotene more easily if you cook the vegetables first. Try sautéing carrots or winter squash or roasting a sweet potato.