In a perfectly planned life with perfectly planned meals, it is possible to meet all nutritional needs with a vegetarian diet. Few women are able to achieve that dietary perfection, however, and odds are that the average vegetarian woman falls short of the daily recommended intake on some nutrients. This can have negative health effects, particularly if you are pregnant or nursing. Add vitamins to your daily routine to avoid nutritional shortfalls.
One of the most common vitamin deficiencies in vegetarian women is vitamin B-12, according to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. That is because this nutrient is primarily available through animal products. According to the Harvard Medical School, the average vegetarian consume roughly half of their daily B-12 needs. Deficiencies of this vital nutrient can cause anemia, cognitive dysfunction, dementia and neurological damage, which in prolonged deficiencies may not be reversible.
Research cited in an article from the U.S. National Library of Medicine found that vegetarians are a “vulnerable group” for B-2 deficiency. Vitamin B-2, also called riboflavin, is critical to processes that support cell function and promote energy production in your tissues. Deficiencies in vitamin B-2 can have a broad range of effects, including low red blood-cell counts, a variety of skin disorders, mouth sores and pain and swelling of the throat. Adequate daily intake of B-2 is especially important for vegetarian women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, as they require a higher amount.
Vitamin D is found mostly in animal products and foods specifically enriched with this nutrient. It can also be obtained from sun exposure. Vegetarian women can suffer from a deficiency, especially if they tend to be indoors during daylight hours, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. According to Oregon State University’s Linus Pauling Institute, the importance of vitamin D goes far beyond healthy bones. Deficiencies can cause rickets and other bone disorders, have a negative impact on the immune system and result in hormonal difficulties. The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine is expected to soon revise the suggested daily amount upward, following the recommendations of numerous national medical associations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics.