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Meeting your needs without meat

Meeting your needs without meat

, by Melissa McGinnis, 21 min reading time

Meats and plant-based sources of protein

We feel the impact of the coronavirus disease on daily life, including what we eat.

Recently, several major meat processing facilities have either closed or are operating at limited capacity due to outbreaks of COVID-19 among workers. As a result, the nation may be facing a meat shortage.

We see the effects of the meat shortage already at the local grocery stores with buying restrictions, rising prices, and limited selection of poultry, beef, and pork.

While some people may reduce their meat consumption due to a lack of availability, others may decide to use this as an opportunity to try a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Your diet may change, but your immediate nutritional needs will not.

Staying healthy requires a balanced diet. Everything from your muscles to your immune system needs specific quantities of macro-nutrients, vitamins, and minerals in order to function at its very best. When we skimp on a balanced diet, we deprive ourselves of vital nutrients.

The good news? Limiting or even removing meat from your diet (particularly of the pink, processed variety) can be a healthy switch as long as you're replacing it with optimal protein sources and nutrient-rich, high-fiber vegetables. Research shows that a vegetarian or vegan diet is often beneficial. However, removing meat completely can have some consequences.

Certain nutrients are significantly more difficult to obtain when meat is cut from your diet. This is why vegetarians and especially vegans need to plan out their meals to avoid muscle loss, anemia, and fatigue. In many cases, it's highly recommended to fill dietary gaps with supplements. Your body will thank you with increased energy, resiliency, and mental clarity.

Whether you're changing your diet due to a choice or circumstances, we've highlighted the top 5 nutrients you may miss when eating a meatless diet.

1. Protein

No surprises here! If you're eating less meat, you need to make sure that you're getting enough protein from clean and complete sources that contain all 9 essential amino acids.

Why is protein essential?

Any bodybuilder or athlete knows that getting enough protein is fundamental to building muscle and maintaining strength. The power of protein, however, goes beyond just helping you to acquire an Adonis-like physique. Protein is a structural component in nearly every tissue in the body and helps repair damage and regulate hormone and enzyme production (including those that aid in digestion).

Do you want silky hair, strong nails, and supple skin? Then don't pass on the protein! Brittle nails and dull hair are common signals that you probably need more protein in your diet.

Feeling hungry? That’s your body begging for protein.

If you're constantly battling an insatiable urge to eat throughout the day, then you may lack enough protein in your diet. Studies show that inadequate diet of protein is associated with increased hunger and greater daily calorie consumption.

Anyone who has tried several fad diets can tell you that the biggest stumbling blocks to weight loss are the killer food cravings and persistent hunger pangs. When your body relentlessly signals to your brain that you're hungry, you're undoubtedly going to overeat.

Increasing your protein intake can curb your appetite while simultaneously nourishing your body.

Essential Amino Acids

It's not all about protein but rather the amino acids that are the building blocks of protein. There are 9 essential amino acids that we must get from our food. Deficits in EAAs have been linked to various negative outcomes such as emotional disorders, insomnia, loss of libido, muscle wasting, increased risk for obesity, and cardiovascular disease, just to name a few.

How many amino acids do I need?

Depending on your sex, activity level, age, and health goals, protein needs vary from person to person. Nutritionists recommend between 0.8 to 2.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. If you’re highly physically active or looking to bulk-up, then your needs for protein will be the greater. Check out this protein calculator to estimate your protein needs.

How to add amino acids to your diet?

As the meat supply becomes more limited, getting enough protein may be difficult. Eggs and dairy products such as Greek yogurt and cheese can be incorporated into your diet, as well as, some plant-based options such as legumes (beans, peas, and peanuts), nuts and seeds, tofu (soy), and quinoa. Even so, please note that plant-based proteins can be more difficult to absorb and often do not provide all 9 essential amino acids.

Supplement your diet with a clean whey protein powder as a simple and delicious solution to getting enough protein. This is a “tried and true” way to boost your protein intake without adding excessive sugar or calories to your diet.

Clean, Grass-fed Whey Protein

Not all protein powders are created equal. Low-quality protein powders are everywhere and these products can introduce unwanted hormones, pesticides, antibiotics, artificial sweeteners, and sugar to your body. Who needs that?!? You deserve only the best quality.

Select a grass-fed whey protein that is free from antibiotics and hormones. Research shows that grass-fed cows produce milk with a higher concentration of omega-3 fatty acids, providing a myriad of positive effects on the body including reducing inflammation and supporting a healthy cardiovascular and nervous system.

Recommended Products:

Optim Nutrition Udder Bliss Grass-fed Whey Protein (2 lb)

Udder Bliss Whey Protein is imported from New Zealand dairy farms where the milk is collected from happy pasture-fed cows that graze year-round. Udder Bliss whey protein is made by using advanced cold-ultrafiltration technology to minimize protein destruction and enhance its absorption in the body.

Udder Bliss stands for purity and is hormone-free (rBGH and rBST free), antibiotic-free, pesticide-free, and soy-free. We keep things simple so you'll find absolutely no fillers such as soy, grain, or high-fructose corn syrup.

Did we mention that it tastes amazing?! Udder Bliss all-natural protein comes in three decadent flavors including creamy vanilla, irresistible strawberry, and rich chocolate. Our flavors are perfect for making shakes and smoothies, and even protein-packed pancakes (see recipes). If you like getting creative in the kitchen then this is the protein for you. Whether you’re mixing it with water or making your own protein treats, Udder Bliss is guaranteed to deliver on taste and quality.

Optim Metabolic Shake with Udder Bliss Whey (3 lbs)

Optim Metabolic Shake combines all of the wholesome goodness of Udder Bliss Whey Protein with two other scientifically proven blends, LeptiCore® and Fibersol®-2 to promote metabolic balance, satiation, and healthy blood sugar levels. Each serving is loaded with 20 grams of pure whey protein and 9 grams of fiber. Optim Metabolic Shake is also light on calories and sugar.

You will feel fuller longer and crush cravings with a combination of protein and fiber. Optim Metabolic Shake is a superior formula to help you stay on track while maximizing your weight management goals. Which flavor will you try? Chocolate, Strawberry, or Vanilla?

Soleil Nutrition Bar (box of 12)

Soleil Protein Bars are available in vegan, whey, and egg protein varieties.

Soleil bars have so much flavor and nutrition, there’s just no room for junk. We stick to clean, mostly organic ingredients because we believe that if you don’t recognize an ingredient, your body won’t either. Each bar is made with whole foods you find in your kitchen. They’re naturally sweetened and made from the finest oils. They are free of gluten, GMOs, or soy. Give your body high-quality protein, fiber, and healthy fat to crush cravings with mouthwatering flavors.

2. Vitamin B-12

Vitamin B-12 is notoriously difficult to obtain if you’re not eating meat regularly. In fact, researchers estimate that up to 15% of the population may be B-12 deficient. If you're consuming less meat, supplement your diet with a bio-active form of B-12 in order to stay healthy. Older adults, regardless of whether they're consuming meat or not also tend to be deficient in B-12 and may especially benefit from a B-12 supplement.

Why B-12 is essential

A diet without enough B-12 is a real cause for concern. B-12 aids in the synthesis of DNA and is involved in neurological functioning, cellular metabolism, and red blood cell formation. B-12 also has heart-protective properties since it functions to metabolize homocysteine. When there are insufficient B-12, homocysteine levels can rise which has been linked to cardiovascular disease.

If you experience a mental fog or have low energy even after a good night’s sleep, you may be low on vitamin B-12.

A deficiency in B-12 can also lead to anemia which is characterized by fatigue, weakness, constipation, and loss of appetite. In addition, significant neurological effects can occur causing difficulty maintaining balance and increasing depression, confusion, dementia, and poor memory. Low energy may also result due because B-12 helps to metabolize carbohydrates and fats which are used for energy.

Frequent bruising is another common sign that you're B-12 deficient. Bruises form when trauma causes the subcutaneous blood vessels to burst and blood to pool under the skin. If even the slightest bump leaves you black and blue it’s a good indicator that you’re B-12 deficient.

Where to get vitamin B-12

The main sources of vitamin B-12 are found in animal products, however, smaller quantities can be found in eggs and milk products. Plant-based foods generally do not contain B-12, although breakfast cereals are often fortified with B-12.

If you're eating little to no meat, a B-12 supplement will fulfill your daily requirements, but there is one caveat. Vitamin B-12 supplements come in two different forms: methylcobalamin and cyanocobalamin. Methylcobalamin is recommended because it’s the active form in human metabolism. Many products, as well as forfeited foods, use cyanocobalamin so make sure to check the label.

Since B-12 is a water-soluble vitamin, you need to get an adequate amount every day (2.4 mcg). If you're taking this supplement orally, a substantially higher dose is needed to absorb a sufficient amount.

Recommended Products:

Ultra Plan Liquid B-12 - Raspberry (4 fl oz)

Ultra Plan Liquid B-12 contains 1000 mcg of the bioactive form of B-12, methylcobalamin. A couple drops placed under the tongue allows it to absorb quickly into the bloodstream. It helps support a healthy nervous system, maintains normal energy levels, and helps support a normal metabolism of carbohydrates and fat.*

3. Iron

Remember when Popeye downed a can of spinach to pump up his muscles and save the day? Spinach was once thought to contain an abundance of iron to increase strength.

Unfortunately, spinach contains far less iron than what was once thought and the form of iron in spinach (called non-heme iron) is poorly absorbed by the digestive system. Our body prefers heme iron which is found in abundance in meat, but not in plants.

Why is iron essential?

Iron is a key component of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the molecule found in red blood cells that transports oxygen throughout the body. A lack of iron can lead to anemia which can cause weakness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and impaired cognitive function similar to a lack of vitamin B-12.

If you experience difficulty during exercise or you have trouble staying awake during normal hours, you might be anemic due to a lack of iron.

Women are especially more likely to be iron deficient in comparison to men. Approximately 20% of women and 3% of men have anemia due to a lack of iron.

Iron-clad Support

When you think of supporting your immune system, you probably do not think about iron. Studies, however, suggest that iron is necessary to have an adequate immune response and immune cells to proliferate.

Furthermore, iron aids in both physical and neurological growth and development. Thus, it's good to make sure children are getting their daily dose of iron.

How do I get more iron in my diet?

Iron-rich foods include liver (organ meat in general), red meat, poultry, and seafood such as oysters. Plant-based sources include beans and cereals, however, these foods contain non-heme iron that is less efficiently absorbed.

Interestingly, Vitamin C can enhance the bioavailability of non-heme iron. If you're eating less or no meat at all, then it's worth taking a vitamin C supplement with your meal to make the most out of every meal. In addition, Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that supports a healthy immune system. You can't go wrong with Vitamin C!

Recommended Products:

Ultra Plan Optim-C 550mg Chewable Wafers

Your body works hard to keep you healthy. Give it a boost with a tangy burst of Vitamin C. This delicious chewable is packed with Vitamin C and Citrus Bioflavonoids. These powerful antioxidants help support your immune system and circulatory health.*

Trace Minerals Research Ionic Iron 22mg (1.9 fl oz)

Liquid Ionic Iron is an essential mineral for optimal health. Research indicates that it plays an important role in proper enzyme and cognitive function, energy production, and optimal immune system function.*

4. Zinc

Zinc is often overlooked but it supports several critical functions in your body. Much like iron, plant-based sources of zinc are simply less bioavailable compared to meat. If your current menu is looking less meaty, then you might be running low on zinc.

With the spread of coronavirus, a strong immune system is a must. If you’re not meeting your daily requirements for zinc (8 – 11mg), then your immune system's ability to fight off infections could be compromised.

Why Zinc is essential.

Today, everyone is concerned about immunity for good reason. Your immune system is a front-line defense against nasty invaders that can make you sick. Do everything you can to support your immune system including getting the recommended amount of zinc every day.

Zinc is found in cells throughout your entire body to help the immune system fight off bacteria and viruses. Research shows that older people and children who have low levels of zinc might have a higher risk of getting infections and pneumonia.

Additionally, zinc lozenges, particularly if taken at the onset of a cold, may speed the recovery time and help you get back to normal sooner.

Beyond supporting your immune system, zinc helps make proteins in DNA, repair damage, and heal wounds. Zinc is even needed to maintain a proper sense of taste and smell.

While everyone needs to meet their daily requirements of Zinc, men need more zinc than women (11 mg compared to 8 mg respectively). This is because zinc promotes sexual health, fertility, and functioning in men. It acts as a hormone balancer for testosterone and an antibacterial agent in a man’s reproductive system.

Where to get Zinc

Red meat and chicken contain high levels of zinc as well as seafood, such as oysters (a whopping 472%—no wonder they're considered an aphrodisiac!).

Vegetarian sources include lentils, tofu, cashews, black beans, cereal, and pumpkin seeds. The amount of zinc tends to be much lower than in meat, and due to the presence of phytates, the absorption of this mineral can be inhibited.

Zinc needs to be replaced daily since your body cannot store it therefore supplementation will help you meet your daily recommended values.

Recommended Products:

Optim Nutrition Essential One-Only Multivitamin (60 tabs)

A mega-potency whole foods-based multivitamin designed to support health and nutrition, energy, digestion, immunity, and more. This complete daily multivitamin offers 52 beneficial nutrients, including a Vitamin C and B Complex to provide a gradual release over a prolonged period of time, 18 amino acids, and 15 trace minerals, including Zinc, to give a more complete product and broader nutritional foundation.

Xrated Body Engineering Priam Male Nutrition Formula (120 capsules)

Xrated Priam Male Nutrition Formula was designed specifically to meet the unique needs of men 40 years and older to feel youthful and reinvigorated. Our proven ingredients, such as DHEA, L-Arginine, & Zinc, work synergistically to safely and effectively promote a balanced hormonal environment, boost energy, improve circulation, and enhance libido.*

As men age, testosterone levels begin to steadily decline, leading many men to feel lethargic and less satisfied with their physique and physical performance. This is because lower testosterone levels are related to weight gain along with a loss of muscle mass, strength, stamina, and libido.

Everyone ages, however, by incorporating the right supplemental nutrition to a healthy, active lifestyle, it’s possible to fight back against time. With Xrated Priam Male Nutrition Formula, you may restore that feeling of youth and virility.*

Zand HerbaLozenge - Cherry Echinacea Zinc (15 lozenges)

Cold weather, tight quarters, and lots of people almost always means colds, coughs, and sore throats. That’s why Zand has brought you Cherry Echinacea Zinc Lozenges. Formulated to help reduce discomfort associated with coughs and sore throats, each powerful lozenge is packed with 5 mg of Zinc which may provide support for healthy immune function.* Let Zand HerbaLozenge provide the delicious & healthy cough and throat-soothing relief you’re looking for.

5. Essential Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Whether you’re a meat-eater or not, you're probably not getting enough omega-3 fatty acids in your diet.

In fact, the typical American diet skews heavily toward omega-6 fatty acids relative to omega-3s. While omega-6 fatty acids aren't necessarily bad, you must find balance. Unless you’re regularly eating seafood or grass-fed animal products, you're unlikely to get enough essential omega-3 fatty acids.

Why Omega-3 is essential

Omega-3 fatty acids have a positive effect on cardiovascular and neurological health and have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.

Considering the epidemic of obesity and diabetes, omega-3s are needed now more than ever. They have been associated with a reduction in diabetes risk and may help with weight loss since they stimulate fat oxidation and improve satiety regulation.

Children, in particular, need omega-3 fatty acids since they are critical for development, particularly for a healthy, growing brain.

In short, omega-3s benefit you from head to toe. When it comes to overall health maintenance and promotion, this nutrient reigns supreme.

Research has uncovered promising relationships between omega-3s with mental health and mood (including ADHD in children), bone and joint health, improved sleep, eye health, and even hair and skin condition. Omega-3s may also help with reducing metabolic syndrome and age-related mental decline.

Need we say more? Omega-3s are quite possibly the most important nutrient that you're missing out on.

Where to get Omega-3

While pork and red meat contain omega-3s, they also contain a large amount of omega-6s. The ratio between omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is what ultimately seems to confer health benefits. Grass-fed cows contain more omega-3s in their meat and dairy products. However, when it comes to getting omega-3s in your diet, nothing beats seafood.

Trade the Turf for the Surf

Most people are aware of the health benefits of eating fish, especially cold-water oily fish, such as wild-caught salmon. This is because oily fish—and seafood more generally—is packed with essential omega-3 fatty acids which can promote superior health.

Despite growing awareness of the benefits of seafood, approximately 80 – 90% of Americans don’t meet the recommended serving of fish or shellfish at least twice a week.

If you're not eating fish, then you're probably not getting enough omega-3s in your diet.

If you hate seafood or are simply worried about seafood purity (i.e., mercury content or country of origin) then an omega-3 supplement is for you.

There are some plant-based sources of omega-3s, including walnuts and flax seeds. Plant-based omega-3s are a different form (α-linolenic acid [ALA]) compared to animal sources (eicosapentaenoic acid [EPA] and docosahexaenoic acid [DHA]).

ALA can be converted to EPA and DHA, however, the process appears to be slow and inefficient27. Still, if you do not want to use animal products, then you should be supplementing with a vegan-friendly version to help meet your needs.

Recommended Products:

Optim Nutrition High Potency Omega-3 Fish Oil (120 softgels)

A daily dose of this high potency formula provides 980 mg of omega-3 fatty acids to support brain health, heart health, eye health, and immune function.

Each soft gel contains the omega-3 fatty acids EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) extracted from cold-water fish – that's 2 to 3 times more than many leading national brands.

High Potency Omega-3 fish oil is purified by using advanced purification techniques that result in extremely low peroxide levels. Pure cold-water fish extracted in FDA approved certified GMP manufacturing facility providing a higher quality oil that’s one of the cleanest and has no fish aftertaste like omega-3 oils available today.

Ultra Plan Flaxseed Oil 1000mg (120 soft gels)

Flaxseed is a wonderful alternative to fish oil for omega fatty acid benefits and suitable for vegetarian and vegan diets.

Organic flaxseed oil is made from the seeds of organic flax plants and is a natural source of Alpha-Linolenic Acid (Omega-3) and Linoleic Acid (Omega-6). These essential fatty acids play an important role in cellular health, providing natural energy for the body.* Since essential fatty acids aren't made by the body, they must be obtained through diet or supplementation for optimal health.


NIH: Veganism, aging and longevity: new insight into old concepts:

NIH: Your Guide to Anemia:

NIH: Dietary Protein and Muscle Mass: Translating Science to Application and Health Benefit:

NIH: Inadequate Dietary Protein Increases Hunger and Desire to Eat in Younger and Older Men:

NIH: Nutritionally Essential Amino Acids:

NIH: Protein – Which is Best?:

NIH: Enhancing the fatty acid profile of milk through forage‐based rations, with nutrition modeling of diet outcomes:

Vitamin B-12 Fact Sheet for Professionals:

NIH: Dietary Reference Intakes for Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B-12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline

NIH: Role of homocysteine in the development of cardiovascular disease


Role of iron in immunity and its relation with infections:

Iron Fact Sheet for Health Professionals:

NIH: The role of vitamin C in iron absorption:

NIH: Effect of vegetarian diets on zinc status: a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies in humans:

NIH: Zinc fact sheet for Consumers:

Zinc is an Essential Element for Male Fertility: A Review of Zn Roles in Men’s Health, Germination, Sperm Quality, and Fertilizatio

NIH: Seafood Consumption and Components for Health:

NIH: Omega-3 fatty acids in obesity and metabolic syndrome: a mechanistic update

Omega-3 fatty acids in the treatment of psychiatric disorders.

The Effect of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Patients With Active Rheumatoid Arthritis Receiving DMARDs Therapy: Double-Blind Randomized Controlled Trial

The mediating role of sleep in the fish consumption – cognitive functioning relationship: a cohort study

Omega-3 Fatty Acids Protect Eyes Against Retinopathy, Study Finds

Cosmetic and Therapeutic Applications of Fish Oil’s Fatty Acids on the Skin

NIH: Intake of Seafood in th

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