Vegetarians are often anaemic

Not necessarily. Anaemia (low haemoglobin or red blood cell count) caused by vitamin 8-12 deficiency is associated with reduced numbers of red blood cells (macrocytes). Vitamin 8-12, like folacin, is required for the formation of new body cells, so that cells that are rapidly turning over, such as those in the bone marrow, are at particular risk. Iron deficiency anaemia, with reduced numbers of red blood cells that are small (microcytes), is also found in vegetarians. This is because iron from plant food has a lower bioavailability (usefulness to the body) than iron from animal foods (see WOMEN NEED MORE IRON THAN MEN). The problem can be avoided by eating foods which contain vitamin C with iron-containing, non-animal foods like wholegrain cereals.

Zinc deficiency is another potential problem for vegetarians, since most zinc in the Western diet comes from meat. Wholegrain cereals are good sources of zinc, but the bioavailability (usefulness to the body) is reduced by phytate and, possibly, by dietary fibre. Where bread is leavened with yeast, an enzyme called phytase breaks down the phytic acid and the zinc is more available to the body.

When adopting a vegan diet it is worth taking note of the sort of food combinations in a traditional vegetarian diet.