Nutritive foods in vegetarian diet

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Including nutritive foods in vegetarian diet can be a key to avoiding nutritional deficiency. Health concerns associated with vegetarian diets are on the rise. While those in favour of vegetarianism assure that with foresight, knowledge and some proper planning, eating a diet that is free from animal products need not be cause for worry; there are others who warn of health risks associated with vegetarian diets.

However, both groups agree that including nutritive foods in vegetarian diet holds the key to a balanced healthy life.


Why should I be aware of this?

  • Those following a vegetarian diet need to be aware of the nutrients they are missing from the foods by not consuming non vegetarian diets.
  • They need to learn how to balance their meals without animal based foods.
  • When choosing vegetarian eating, it is important to be aware that there are special nutritional needs at different stages of life.
  • The more restrictive a diet is, the more difficult it is to get all the nutrients your body needs. A vegan diet, for example, eliminates food sources of vitamin B-12, as well as milk products, which are a good source of calcium. Other nutrients, such as iron and zinc, are available in a meatless diet, but you need to make an extra effort to ensure they're in yours.
  • For optimum nutrition as a vegetarian, follow the Vegetarian Food Pyramid.
  • Vitamin B12 is a vitamin which only vegans (vegetarians eating no dairy, eggs, meat, fish, and birds) need to add to their diet.

All about nutritive foods in vegetarian diet

A healthy vegetarian diet consists primarily of plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. Because the emphasis is on nonmeat food sources, a vegetarian diet generally contains less fat and cholesterol, and typically includes more fiber.

Some essential nutrients and their sources

  • Calcium — Good plant based sources of calcium are fortified soy or rice milk, fortified cranberry, orange, or apple juice, collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, kale, broccoli, blackstrap molasses, tofu processed with calcium sulfate, and tempeh.
  • Vitamin D — Exposure to sunlight ensures vitamin D production by the body. For those who do not get regular sun exposure or live in northern areas, fortified foods and supplements (such as any common multivitamin) are required.
  • Protein — A diet drawn from varied plant sources easily satisfies protein requirements, providing all essential amino acids, even without intentional combining or “protein complementing” as long as calorie intake is also adequate. Good protein sources include cooked beans, tofu, soy yogurt, tempeh, seitan, nuts, seeds, and [[whole grain]s.
  • Calories — Nuts and seed butters, avocados, dried fruits, and added fats (e.g., vegetable oils) can provide additional concentrated calories without bulk.
  • Vitamin B1 2— Produced by microorganisms in the small intestines of humans and animals, vitamin B12 made by humans is not well absorbed and retained. Plant foods contain little of this nutrient. However, it can be easily obtained from vitamin B12 fortified breakfast cereals, fortified soymilk and nutritional yeast.
  • Iron —Diet consisting of vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, and nuts provide adequate iron. Consuming foods rich in vitamin C, such as orange juice, with iron-rich foods enhances the absorption of iron. Some foods are naturally rich in both iron and vitamin C, such as broccoli, Swiss chard, and other dark green leafy vegetables.
  • Zinc — Good sources include legumes, nuts, and zinc fortified breakfast cereals.

Vegetarian food pyramid

  1. Eggs, Sweets -- Eat occasionally or in small quantities
  2. Nuts and seeds; Egg whites; Soy milk; Dairy products; Plant oils -- Eat daily
  3. Fruits and vegetables; whole grains; soy, beans, peanuts and other legumes -- eat at every meal.

A balanced vegetarian diet involves eating from all food groups. The vegetarian food pyramid aids in maintaining a healthy balanced diet by ensuring that one gets to eat foods from all the food groups. Each of these vegetarian food groups provides some, but not all of the nutrients a person needs. Foods in one group cannot replace those in another. Moreover, no one food group is more important than another.

Maximize nutrition in vegan/vegetarian diets

Adding plant based superfoods to a vegan diet is an easy way to get the required nutrition. Some highly nutrient rich superfoods that address the concerns associated with a vegetarian diet are:

  • Flax seeds-- Flax seed is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, as well as fiber, vitamins and healthy dietary fat. Flax seed can be sprinkled onto cereals and added to baked goods. Ground flax seed mixed with water is a great substitute for eggs in baking as it is a good binding agent too.
  • Spirulina -- Spirulina is an alga. It is a good source of highly digestible protein, and is loaded with vitamins, beta carotene and amino acids.
  • Green leafy vegetables -- Dark leafy greens, such as spinach, collards, arugula and kale are a great vegan source of calcium for strong bones. They are also rich in vitamins and [nutrients]].

Nuts -- Nuts are heart friendly and rich in proteins. Walnuts are a great source of Omega-3, almonds provide calcium and vitamin E, and magnesium. Nuts make a great snack either raw or roasted, and they can be added to recipes to add crunch and nutrition. Nut butters spread on whole grain bread are every healthy.

Quick nutrient rich foods for busy people

With the demands of school and outside activities, it may often seem there is just not enough time to eat. Here are some foods that require little or no preparation. Some of these foods can be found in fast-food restaurants -- check the menu.

Apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, peaches, plums, dried fruits, bagels and peanut butter, carrot or celery sticks, popcorn, pretzels, soy cheese pizza, bean tacos or burritos, salad, soy yogurt, soy milk, rice cakes, sandwiches, frozen juice bars.


  • Plant sources of protein alone can provide all the protein required by vegetarians and vegans provided a variety of plant foods are consumed.
  • Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that those who choose foods of only plant origin must supplement the diet with vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, iron, and zinc. Adequate intake of these nutrients is even more important for growing children and pregnant and lactating women.
  • It is easier for the human body to absorb iron from food it is eaten with foods that contain Vitamin C. As the absorption of iron from plant based food is less than that from animal based food, vegetarians should have some fruit or vegetable containing vitamin C, or some fruit juice with their meal.
  • Plant foods are not a reliable source of B-12 for vegetarians. Vitamin B-12 in spirulina, sea vegetables, tempeh, and miso has been shown to be inactive B-12 analog rather than the active vitamin.
  • Since uptake of zinc from plant foods is lower, vegetarians should attempt to meet or exceed the zinc RDA.

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