I’m often asked, “Do I need to take vitamin supplements if I’m a vegetarian?” Whether we are vegetarians or meat eaters, these days vitamin supplements are almost always necessary. However, many people have gone from taking no vitamins to swallowing inappropriate mega-doses of all kinds of vitamins.
The use of vitamin supplements should not be tailored to what is trendy or what other people do. In general, anyone who is able to follow a consistently wholesome and well-planned diet does not need a lot of vitamin supplements. Unfortunately, we are living in such a fast-paced and stressful world that many of us do not consume the balanced variety of vitamins and minerals we need. Too often, it’s only after we suffer loss of health and well-being in ourselves or our loved ones that we begin to seriously look into balanced nutrition and preventive or healing measures.
Moderate use of vitamin supplements is encouraged, but it is not wise .to take vitamins in order to compensate for poor and erratic dietary habits. Sometimes, taking megadoses of vitamins causes more distress in the system. Vitamin overdoses tend to raise yang energy, causing the depletion of yin energy and unbalancing our metabolism. Symptoms such as skin rash, red eyes, headache, constipation or diarrhea, acne, acidic stomach, burping, short temper,and metallic taste in the mouth can be indications of an overdose of vitamins.
However, vitamin supplements in moderate amounts are often necessary to nourish and strengthen the body. They help us recover from illness or surgery more quickly. Vitamins used correctly can nourish tissue cells, improve metabolic function, and improve the capacity to resist disease immunologically.
Herbal supplements are vastly complex and require extensive study. I can only provide some information about a few helpful vitamin and herb tonics. Among the thousands of powerful herbs, you will find that Panax quinquefolium, Angelica sinensis, Lycium chinesis, and Ganodenna lucidum are a few that are useful as qi and blood tonics. Vitamin E (d-alphatocopherol), wheat germ oil, or lecithin is often added to the formulas to enhance their functioning.
PANAX QUINQUEFOLIUS is known in the West as ginseng. Western ginseng grows in Korea, Japan, the United States, and Canada. Ginseng can be used to eliminate internal heat; it is a qi tonic that increases and strengthens the body’s vital energy, relieves fatigue, and stimulates blood circulation.
ANGELICA SINENSIS is grown largely in China and Japan. The common name for this blood tonic herb is tang-kwei. Tang-kwei contains essential oil, palmatic acid, and vitamin B complex. Tang-kwei improves blood circulation and helps treat anemia, constipation, irregular menstruation, and injury trauma.
LYCIUM CHINENSIS can reduce fever. It invigorates the liver and kidneys, increases the essential energy of the blood, strengthens the tendons and bones, and as a result, nourishes the blood. Its essential oils exert a diuretic effect.
GANODERMA LUCIDUM is commonly called Reishi mushroom. The Chinese recognize it as the “herb of good fortune.” Reishi mushroom has long been used in Oriental medicine as a life-prolonging herb. It is known to enhance immunity. Recently, pharmaceutical companies have been doing extensive studies of Reishi and its beneficial effects in treating bronchitis, hepatitis, arthritis, neurasthenia, and hypertension.
VITAMIN E is thought to retard cellular aging and keep skin younger looking. It can alleviate fatigue, improve endurance,prevent blood clots, and prevent thick scar formation externally and internally. Vitamin E deficiency is related to anemia, muscle degeneration, and destruction of red blood cells. Wheat germ oil is a good source of Vitamin E.
LECITHIN is usually added to enhance the functioning of Vitamin E; it assists in transporting fatty cells and cholesterol from the blood. It is important in preventing arteriosclerosis.
Best Food Sources of 3 Essential Vitamins:
VITAMIN B 12 DEFICIENCY:
Vitamin B 12 is essential for proper development and health of the central nervous system. Nowadays, there are many new sources of B 12 being introduced and B 12 deficiency is no longer a threat to vegetarians. B 12 can be found in tempeh (products made from soybeans and grains), sea vegetables, and many fortified soy products.
Michio Kushi, a macrobiotic expert, suggests 5 milligrams per day of B 12 for adults, and he recommends sea vegetables, tempeh, and miso as sources of this essential nutrient. Nori (a seaweed) is very high in B 12, having about 13 milligrams of B 12 in each 100 grams of its dried form. Other sea vegetables yield about 6 milligrams per 100 grams of their dried form.
Calcium denciency is sometimes a concern for vegetarians because calcium is not as readily available in plant foods as in animal foods. In my clinical experience, I’ve found that calcium denciency may not be due to inadequate calcium intake but rather to lack of absorption due to improper amounts of phosphorous in the diet. Fast foods, processed products, soft drinks, renned sugar, caffeine, and stress increase acidity in the body and also interfere with calcium absorption.
Sea vegetables are good sources of calcium and also supply iodine, iron, vitamins A, B, C, E, and protein. Seaweeds at your local health food store include agar-agar, arame, dulse, hiijiki, kelp, kombu, nori, and wakame. Sea vegetables are very versatile. They can be shredded over any grain dish, cooked with other vegetables, added to stir-fry dishes, used in making soup stock, or sprinkled on top of your favorite salad dishes. Nori is a popular wrapper for sushi.
Our best sources of energy are carbohydrates, which can be found in fruits, grains, and vegetables. Sugars are simple carbohydrates, while starches are termed complex carbohydrates. Starches (such as those in potatoes, wheat, rice, com, carrots, and turnips, for example) support a more consistent blood sugar level while sugars (fruit sugar, milk sugar, cane sugar, and so on) can cause rapid fluctuation in blood glucose levels. A well-rounded vegetarian diet will automatically provide plenty of carbohydrates to consistently fuel our energy all day long. Some carbohydrates should constitute at least fIfty percent of our diet; healthy vegetarianism is an ideal way to ensure this.