Hungry, Hungry Herbivores…
By Kimberly Stein, RD, CDN
Have you ever considered becoming a vegetarian? What stopped you from doing so? There are many reasons why some people opt for this dietary style. Whichever vegetarian diet you choose (lacto-ovo, pescetarian, flexitarian, or vegan), there is ample research to suggest that partaking in a plant-based diet has multiple health benefits. However, before you jump into veggies, it’s important to be mindful of specific nutrients you may be lacking from your diet. In honor of Vegetarian Awareness Month, let’s discuss the top five nutrients of concern and some delicious sources! I’ve included some terrific recipes to get you started.
Calcium is an important mineral which helps build and maintain a strong skeletal structure. While milk and dairy contain the highest amounts of calcium, turn to dark-leafy green veggies instead. Other great choices include: broccoli, beans, soy products, and fortified cereals or juices.
Iron is a significant part of our red blood cell make-up. Iron can be found in soybeans, dark-leafy greens, enriched breads, eggs, peanut butter and fortified cereals. Since iron is not easily absorbed from plant sources, try pairing your iron-foods with vitamin C rich foods. This will help your body absorb the iron it needs!
Vitamin B-12 is a nutrient primarily only found in animal products. For those on a vegan diet, this can be extremely difficult to get enough of. If you are including eggs or dairy in your diet, then you are most likely getting your daily value. If not, try consuming B-12 fortified foods such as soymilk, meat analogs, cereal and nutritional yeast.
Vitamin D is not found in very many foods, but fortunately many products are fortified with it. Lacto-ovo eaters will benefit the most since eggs are the predominant source of vitamin D and dairy is the most commonly fortified source. Vitamin D can also be found in fortified-orange juice and fortified-cereals.
Protein seems to be the nutrient everyone is concerned with when choosing to opt out of meat. Fortunately, there are a plethora of options to still choose from. Beans and lentils are a great source of protein as well as many other nutrients and they can be incorporated into many dishes. Tofu and soy products also make great meal additives; tempeh is a fermented soy product which you can switch in for meat in any main meal. If you are a lacto-ovo eater, eggs and dairy are also fantastic options for fulfilling your protein requirement.
Find tasty recipes to inspire experienced and new vegetarians on our NWH Recipes page at www.nwhc.net: Autumn Vegetable Soup, Eggplant Stacks, Zucchini Croquettes, and many more!
Check out the following link for some fantastic healthy-eating tips for vegetarians!!