Special needs of vegetarians and vegans

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The vegetarian diet can be typically low in protein, prompting a deficiency in catecholamines, the neurotransmitters responsible for feelings of being energized and alert. Tyrosine can be found as vegetarian capsules and as a powder to dissolve in water, for a catecholamine boost. Vegetarians can also be low in tryptophan, the precursor to serotonin. Try taking 5-HTP derived from the seeds of the plant Griffonia simplicifolia for a serotonin boost.

The endorphins are comprised of fifteen amino acids, and vegetarians could easily fall short of them because they are found mostly in meats. Since fats and oils encourage the release of the endorphins, be sure not to limit high unsaturated fat foods like nuts or avocado. Beware of unhealthy addictions to endorphin-generating activities like over-exercising, sex addiction, or overeating chocolate. This is your body’s attempt to force a short term burst of endorphins for a “runner’s high.” A better way to help your body produce endorphins is to use the amino acid supplement “DLPA” (D-phenylalanine and L-phenylalanine), exercise only in moderation, and include lots of protein at every meal. Many brands of DLPA state: “suitable for vegetarians.”

To avoid a deficiency in essential fatty acids, vegans may take algae oil instead of fish oil. Algae is what the fish feed on! Don’t rely solely on flaxseed oil to get DHA, because it is not readily converted to EPA or DHA, so you are probably getting less DHA than you think.

Change all your cooking oil to olive oil or coconut oil, or ghee if you’re not vegan. Today’s diet of fried and sauteed foods has thrown the body’s expected ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 way off. This increases the incidence of depression because the brain is not being fed the essential oil it needs: DHA.

Beware of too much soy, because it seems to inhibit the conversion of tyrosine into the catecholamine neurotransmitters. It may lead to a blah, flat mood that lasts a long time. Don't stop eating soy based foods, though. Vegans need soy, but just be aware if you are eating tofu and soyburgers at every meal. As Joseph Pizzorno, founding president of Bastyr University counsels, “Too much of anything, no matter how healthful, can cause an imbalance.”

And for the B vitamins and iron, be sure to take your favorite brand of vegetarian multivitamin every day. A calcium supplement should be taken separately, in the afternoon and/or before bed.

The shocker list of nutrients lists “brewer's yeast” as a source of many of the B vitamins. You can find “nutritional yeast” at health food stores or online; this is a favorite supplement of vegans. Nutritional yeast is any yeast grown for the specific purpose of being a food supplement, and brewer’s yeast (the yeast used in making beer) is used as a nutritional yeast when it's grown in the presence of vitamin B12 and other nutrients. It can have a wide range of nutritional values, depending on the species of yeast and on what medium it was grown, like grain or sugarcane.

Don't forget about Bragg's Liquid Amino Acids. This brand has been around for decades because it answers a vital need in the vegan community. Sprinkle some drops of it on your meals just before eating to ensure the amino acids are intact. (Don't cook with it.)

Just like everybody else, vegetarians also need to be wary of eating too much refined sugar, white flour-based carbohydrates, and foods fried in rancid oils. Substituting an extra bag of chips to make up for the fact that there is no meat in your sandwich only sets you up to crave more fried foods and empty calories, and ultimately leads to 'false' bad moods.