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Let’s take a closer look at each of these nutrients on a vegetarian or vegan diet.B12 deficiency is especially common in vegetarians and vegans.(5) However, calcium bioavailability from plant foods is affected by their levels of oxalate and phytate, which are inhibitors of calcium absorption and thus decrease the amount of calcium the body can extract from plant foods.(One study suggests that it would take 16 servings of spinach to get the same amount of absorbable calcium as an 8 ounce glass of milk.

Studies have shown that kids raised until age 6 on a vegan diet are still B12 deficient years after adding at least some animal products to their diet.I’ve covered the prevalence of B12 deficiency in vegetarians and vegans at length in another article.The takeaway is that the most recent studies using more sensitive techniques for detecting B12 deficiency have found that 68% of vegetarians and 83% of vegans are B12 deficient, compared to just 5% of omnivores.(5b) That would be 33 cups of baby spinach or around 5-6 cups of cooked spinach.There are a few vegetables listed in this paper that have higher levels of bioavailable calcium, but it’s important to note that all of the vegetables tested required multiple servings to achieve the same amount of usable calcium as one single serving of milk, cheese, or yogurt.

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