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Vegetarians May Need to Boost Omega-3s, B12

Researcher Says Deficiencies May Boost Heart Disease Risk, but Vegetarians’ Risk Still Lower Than Meat Eaters’ Risk

Vegetarians and Heart Health: Perspective continued...

She does agree that vegetarians are often low in vitamin B12 and omega-3.

Her advice? ''If you choose to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, plan wisely. Some thought needs to be put into planning balanced meals and a variety of foods as well as cooking methods to obtain all nutrients needed for optimal health."

Most vegetarians are aware of the need to pay attention to B12 and omega-3 fatty acids, says Reed Mangels, PhD, RD, the nutrition advisor for the Vegetarian Resource Group.

She suggests for vitamin B12 that vegetarians consider taking a supplement or eat cereals fortified with the vitamin or drink soy, rice, or almond milk.

Vegetarians who eat eggs and drink cow's milk, the so-called ovo-lacto vegetarians, can obtain their B12 from those foods, says Mangels, who has written a book for dietitians, The Dietitian's Guide to Vegetarian Diets.

Omega-3 fatty acids are found in flaxseed, walnuts, and soy products.

According to the Institute of Medicine, adults should take in about 2.4 micrograms daily of vitamin B12. Men should eat 1.6 grams of omega-3s daily; women, 1.1 grams.

About 3% of the U.S. population is vegetarian, Mangels says. About one-third eat no meat but do eat eggs and dairy. Another one-third are vegans, who eat no dairy products. Another one-third eat no animal products, but do eat honey.

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