It is true that vegetarian food offers a range of nutrients but there are some nutrients which are either absent in plant based food or present in very low amount which can’t meet your daily requirement. Some of these nutrients are vitamin A, B12, D, K and minerals like calcium. Although, you can get adequate amount of these nutrients through supplements but one should understand that supplements can’t take the place of natural product and there is also risk of side effect or allergy.
Here we will discuss natural food sources of 5 important nutrients for vegetarians.
Iron and calcium
It is very essential for formation of hemoglobin which carries oxygen in the body. It is easily found in animal meat and poultry especially the dark organs like liver. This nutrient is also found in green leafy vegetables but if you take these food sources along with tea, coffee or cocoa then your body tends to less absorb the iron content. You should also eat vitamin C rich food along with iron sources because this vitamin facilitates the absorption of iron in the body
Calcium is equally important in a vegetarian diet because it helps in building strong bones and teeth, transmits messages in nerve cells and required for muscle contraction. You can include different plant sources of calcium such as bok choy, broccoli and kale along with tofu (soybean product) which is rich source of calcium in vegetarian diet. Other options are calcium fortified soymilk, eggs, milk and dairy products.
Although, this nutrient is required in low amount but it is very important for thyroid gland and its hormonal functions. It also plays an important role in metabolizing food into energy and thus your body growth and development can get adversely affected in its absence. This nutrient is commonly found in seafood but vegetarians who avoid seafood don’t get iodine. You can get this from iodized salt and kelp.
Omega 3 fatty acid
It is important for brain, heart and eye functions and its two variants DHA and EPA are mainly involve in these biological functions. Fatty fish like salmon is the rich source of this nutrient and our body is also able to synthesize little amount of this nutrient from ALA (another variant) which is found in plant products such as flaxseed, walnuts, canola oil and soy. Supplements of DHA/EPA are made from algae and are readily available in markets. You can also include DHA fortified soymilk and breakfast bar to get the benefits of this acid.
This macronutrient is required in high amounts for the growth, development and repairing processes of the body. Animal based food is rich in proteins but plant products especially legumes, lentils and beans also have good amount of proteins. The only problem is that you have to consume variety of plant based protein sources throughout the day to meet the required amount of this nutrient. Soybean products like tofu and tempeh are also rich sources of protein along with animal derived products such as egg, milk and dairy products. You can include egg and dairy products which are allowed in vegetarian diet to increase the percentage of protein in your diet.
This nutrient is important for proper functioning neurological function and also helps in blood and DNA formation. This nutrient is naturally found in animal food such as meat (especially liver), fish, shellfish, poultry, eggs, and milk and dairy products. You can include the some of the animal based food such as eggs and dairy product in your diet to get this nutrient or you can have vitamin B12 fortified food in your diet.