• Shruti GOCHHWAL

The Nutritional Profile Of The Indian Vegetarian Diet – Benefits and Deficiencies

The bio-availability and absorption of nutrients vary upon the ingredients used and cooking techniques applied. And in a country like India, whether you go north, south, east or west, all that is very varied. Even though the diet preferences vary throughout India, almost 80% of Indian population follows and promotes a vegetarian diet or lacto-vegetarian diet.

Studies in India on vegetarian diets suggest different beneficial outcomes in terms of food consumption, patterns and nutrient intake in various geographical regions of India, relative to a non-vegetarian diet. People who prefer to follow a vegetarian diet have also been found:

  1. In comparison with non-vegetarians consumed larger quantities of legumes, fruits, roots and tubers, dairy and sugar.

  2. More starch, vitamin C and folate were also consumed, and less sugar, protein, vitamin B12, and zinc being consumed.

  3. Overall, Indian vegetarian diets have found to meet the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) levels of macro- and micronutrients with total energy and total fats less than non-vegetarian diets.

Deficiencies Related to a Vegetarian Diet

  1. Vegetarians are often found with vitamin B12 deficiencies as there are no plant sources available for Vitamin B12. The deficiency results due to the reduced bioavailability of vitamin B12 from plant sources.

  2. A vegetarian diet is also found to be deficient in omega-3 fatty acids which can only be sourced from non-vegetarian foods like fish, meat, and eggs. Low levels of vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids, which lead to cardiovascular disease, have been linked with higher serum levels of homocysteine.

  3. The less bioavailable zinc from plant sources, which results in vegetarians consuming less zinc compared to non-vegetarians, has also been shown.

  4. Indian vegetarian diets do not include the required amount of proteins and most of the protein consumed is cereal-based or acquired from soy, beans, tofu, mushroom and paneer which do not offer our body with enough protein or essential amino acids and are also of poor quality and digestibility.

  5. Another deficiency that vegetarians face is of Vitamin. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin which is required for formation and maintenance of bones, nerve signalling, muscle and cell functions. It’s because the dietary sources of vitamin D are non-vegetarian foods like fish, egg yolk, and fortified foods.

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