More power to you if you make the commitment to exclude animal products from your diet! Unfortunately, many articles and publications glamorize going vegan. I say “unfortunately” because they paint a picture of achieving optimum health when you say no to meat.

It’s not quite that simple … not to mention a grilled ribeye is hard to turn down! If you are looking for a new diet to achieve that perfect bod, saying no to meat doesn’t instantly drop body fat, give you washboard abs, or increase your I.Q. It will most likely improve your overall health but there are some key nutritional needs your body will be missing. If they are overlooked your meat kicking commitment can end up sabotaging your health. These three nutrients are specifically important to any meat-free diet.

Protein

It’s a core macronutrient that provides the body with key muscle building blocks called amino acids. Our body uses the amino acids to repair, and build muscle tissue. When all essential amino acids are present, a protein is considered complete. All animal protein sources are complete but plant protein sources may not contain all essential amino acids. Those following a meat-free diet must mix their plant protein sources to consume all essential amino acids and thus have what the body needs to repair and build muscle.

Minerals

The minerals zinc, calcium and iron are found in meats and milk but lacking in plants. These minerals play key roles in our body. Zinc helps with our immune system, digestive system, metabolism and over 300 enzymes in the body require it. Calcium is known for helping create and maintain strong bones and teeth but it plays a major role in muscle contraction, lowering blood pressure and protecting against diabetes. Iron is required to produce red blood cells and can lead to anemia if you are deficient.

Vitamins

Vitamins B2 (riboflavin), B12 and D are also concentrated in meats and milk. Vitamin B2 is needed by the body to utilize other vitamins and nutrients like B6, folate, niacin and iron. Vitamin B12 plays an essential role in our natural energy production. Vitamin D is essential for our immune system, bone strength, mood and so much more. I don’t want to scare you away from a meat free diet.

When you go vegan, it’s important to be aware of nutrition you’ll be missing. These voids won’t show up the first day or week of your new diet, however over time they will chip away at the optimum health you want to achieve. Simply make a few adjustments to your plan and find quality supplements to fill the gaps.

We are what we eat. Taking control of your diet is the quickest way to take control of your health. There are many pathways to achieving your best health, we just want you to avoid the potholes along the way!

Featured photo courtesy of DC Vegan Catering