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Realizing nutritional needs of vegetarians
November 24, 2013, 11:45 am

Vegetarian diets can certainly meet all your nutritional needs — the key is to eat a variety of foods so all your nutrient bases are covered. Here are a few healthy eating principles for a well-rounded vegetarian diet.

Protein:  You can easily meet your daily protein needs by eating an array of plant-based foods. Fill out your meals with beans, lentils, nuts, rice, and soy products like tofu and tempeh. Don’t rely on a hefty portion of cheese to fill the protein gap since cheeses often add saturated fat.

Calcium: Vegetarians can meet their calcium requirements by including calcium-rich dairy products (milk, cheese, and yogurt) in meals and snacks. If you’re lactose intolerant, a vegan, or simply want to incorporate other non dairy sources of calcium into your diet, you can incorporate soy products such as tofu made with calcium sulfate and soy milk, soybeans, soynuts, calcium-fortified fruit juices, and some dark-green leafy vegetables including collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, bok choy, broccoli,

Fruits and vegetables: Whole fruits and vegetables are some of the best foods vegetarians can eat. They are low in calories, high in fibre, and brimming with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They play an important role in staving off heart disease and stroke, managing blood pressure and cholesterol, helping prevent certain types of cancer, protecting vision, and maintaining a healthy digestive system. And color is certainly key — the vitamins and phytochemicals that give plants their brilliant colors work as antioxidants, immune boosters, and anti-inflammatories in humans.

Go for whole grains: All grains start out as whole grains, which mean that they still contain the germ, endosperm, and bran. The bran is full of filling fibre, which keeps you full, while the germ and endosperm contain beneficial antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and other healthful compounds. Processing, however, can remove one or more of these components, making refined grains less healthful. Research has shown that eating whole grains helps lower your risk for heart disease, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

Remember iron, zinc, and B12:  In addition to protein and calcium, vegetarians need to get adequate amounts of iron, zinc, and vitamin B12. Vegetarian sources of iron include spinach, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, lentils, turnip greens, whole-wheat breads, peas, dried apricots, prunes, and raisins. Zinc is necessary to maintain the immune system and keeping it functioning properly. Zinc sources include a variety of beans (white beans, kidney beans, and chickpeas), cereals fortified with zinc, wheat germ, milk and milk products, and pumpkinseeds.

Vegetarians can get Vitamin B12 from milk products, eggs, soy-based beverages, and vegetable burgers.

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