Did you know...?
Vegetarians tend to have lower hormone levels than their meat-eating counterparts.
Why is this?
1. You need cholesterol to make hormones.
One of the raw materials necessary to make your sex hormones is cholesterol. Unfortunuately, plant sterols (the “cholesterol” equivalent from plants) aren't as effectively used by our bodies as cholesterol from animal products. Interestingly, your body does make its own cholesterol, but we often need to supplement with cholesterol from our diet as well to reach optimal levels.
2. You need protein to make hormones.
Protein from animal products tends to be more bioavailable than protein from plant products. There are plenty of sources of protein in a vegetarian diet (e.g., quinoa, rice and beans, lentils). However, it’s just not as quickly and easily digested and assimilated as animal protein.
3. Certain nutrients are only available in animal products, such as vitamin A (retinoids specifically), vitamin D (except maybe mushrooms!) and vitamin B12 (unless foods are fortified with these nutrients). Beyond this, the bioavailability of certain nutrients is better from animal sources than plant sources.
For example, the conversion from ALA (from plant sources) to DHA is quite poor; it’s better to get DHA directly from oily fish. Also, heme iron (from animals) is more bioavailable than nonheme iron (from plants). Zinc levels are also is also lower on vegetarian diets.