So you’ve decided to put down the steak knife and pick up some tofu — that’s great! Going vegetarian can potentially improve your cardiovascular health, reduce pollution from livestock farms, help out our animal friends, and take a big bite out of your grocery bill.
Whether you’re kicking meat to the curb for medical reasons or lifestyle preferences, the transition from burgers to bulgur takes a while to master.
Removing meat from your diet can lead to specific nutrient deficiencies, and you need to tweak your animal-free diet so you’re eating combinations of foods that make up for your fillets. Supplements can help you bridge the gap while you’re mastering that vegetarian meatloaf recipe you’ve had your eye on.
Here are some tips on how to choose supplements during your meat-to-veg transition — and where to find them online.
Think that hanging out in the sun gives you all the Vitamin D you need? Think again: Your diet is a vital source of this nutrient, with fatty fish, fish oils, and beef leading the pack of providers.
Vitamin D helps your body properly absorb calcium, creating stronger bones. It also improves muscle function and beefs up your immune system. You can consume plenty of Vitamin D in a vegetarian diet from soy milk, cheese, and egg yolks, but if you’re still perfecting your veggie omelet, you should pick up a Vitamin D3 supplement.
Vitamin D3 is your body’s preferred variety of vitamin D — it’s the natural form that your body builds from sunlight, and it may be more effective at increasing overall levels of vitamin D in your blood. This certified organic pick from Bronson is packed with pharmaceutical-grade D3, and it doesn’t use any animal byproducts to get the job done.
Calcium works in tandem with vitamin D3 to strengthen your bones and teeth for a healthy body and pearly whites. Calcium also maintains our heart’s rhythm, and it helps our blood clot and our muscles contract. In other words, it’s a pretty big deal in the vitamin world.
There are some vegetarian-friendly calcium choices like milk, yogurt, and cheese, but if you’re not a big fan of dairy products, you’ll need a calcium supplement to feel your best.
Calcium supplements work best when taken in small doses at mealtimes, and eating a fruity, chewy calcium supplement for “dessert” after lunch and dinner is a great way to stay on track. One serving of Caltrate’s Multi-Flavor Calcium Chewables has as much calcium as two glasses of milk — it’s the perfect addition to your new vegetarian diet.
This nutrient is frequently thought of as an energy-booster, but B-12 is also essential for producing red blood cells and preventing anemia. And it’s a tricky vitamin for vegetarians since it’s found almost exclusively in animal products.
Fortified soy products and vitamin-enriched cereals can help prevent a B-12 deficiency, but reaching for a B-12 supplement is vital if you want more variety in your breakfast besides soy milk and cereal.
Spring Valley’s Vitamin B Complex Sublingual Liquid is an affordable, easy-to-use liquid that’s great for people who have trouble swallowing pills, or for a change of pace if you’re tired of capsules. Just drop a dose under your tongue once a day, then go back to stocking up your kitchen with vegetarian-friendly foods.
If you’re feeling sluggish during the first few weeks of your meat-free voyage, chances are that low levels of iron are the culprit. This critical nutrient is vital to your red blood cells, which carry oxygen through your body and keep your energy level on an even keel.
Omnivores consume plenty of iron from red meat, but iron isn’t absorbed as easily through plant sources. Even if you’re adding iron-rich greens like spinach to your diet, you’ll probably need extra doses to give your blood a boost.
Iron supplements can be notoriously hard on your stomach, but these Gentle Iron Supplements are easy to digest. They’re also made from vegetable capsules instead of gelatin to keep your vegetarian goals front and center.
Zinc might land at the end of the vitamin alphabet, but that doesn’t make it less important: It plays a starring role in approximately 100 enzymes that your body needs to stay healthy, it helps your cells divide and conquer, and it forms proteins that you need for energy. It’s also an immune-system booster that helps your body fight colds and flus.
Much like iron, your body has a harder time absorbing zinc from plant products like legumes and soy than it does from animal products like red meat and shellfish, so a quality zinc supplement is in order to round out your nutrition. Pure Encapsulations Zinc Supplement is a certified vegetarian option that covers your daily zinc requirements without animal by-products, gluten, or dairy.