Advice for vegetarians seeking a healthy diet28/06/2016
Ensuring a good nutritional balance is important for meat eaters and vegetarians. But the advice for vegetarians seeking a healthy diet is that there are plenty of foodstuffs available to give you the protein, vitamins and minerals you need.
Many people who don’t eat meat will continue to eat fish, which is an excellent source of protein. Also, a useful piece of advice for vegetarians is that eggs contain the highest biological value protein levels.
10 protein sources for vegetarians
Our advice for vegetarians is to eat the following. Make sure they have top billing on your shopping list if you are seeking better wellbeing through a healthier diet:
- Pulses – chick peas, kidney beans, mung beans, black eyed peas, lentils.
- Low fat milk, low fat cheese, low fat yoghurt
- Whey protein
- Nuts and seeds
- Peanut butter
Advice for vegetarians: vitamins and minerals
It is also important not to ignore vitamins and minerals found abundantly in many meats. Deficiencies in calcium, riboflavin, zinc, iron, vitamin D and vitamin B12 are all common in vegetarians and can affect everyday life functions decreasing your sense of wellbeing.
So, our advice for vegetarians on maintaining a balanced diet is to ensure you keep an eye on the following vitamins and minerals. We have also included foods that are a good source of important vitamins and minerals.
Many dairy products, such as milk, contain calcium. Lower fat milks actually contain higher calcium levels than full fat.
- If you don’t include dairy in your diet try to include protein rich soya milk, soya yoghurts and soya cheeses.
- Other good calcium sources include nuts, seeds, figs, rhubarb and a range of beans.
Iron is vital for healthy blood. ‘Haeme iron’ from sources such as meat, poultry and fish is more easily absorbed than non-haeme iron (from vegetables and dairy) because it’s derived from blood tissues. But:
- Good non-haeme iron sources include tofu, soy beans, salad greens, green vegetables (spinach, lentils, beans etc), beans (kidney, black, pinto etc), black eyed peas and oatmeal.
- Try to include vitamin C sources in your meals which will help iron absorption.
- Some produce, caffeine for example, can inhibit iron absorption. Try and delay that after after-dinner coffee for at least 30 minutes.
Zinc is very important in maintaining our immune function, skin colour, protein absorption, sense of smell and much more. The recommended daily amount is between 10 and 15 milligrams per day.
- Vegetarian-friendly foods that can provide zinc are; pulses, eggs, nuts/seeds, wheat germ and whole wheat bread and for pescetarians try shellfish and crustaceans.
Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
Riboflavin is responsible for a range of bodily functions such as maintaining healthy eyes, skin, and nervous system. It is also vital for iron absorption and the development of red blood cells.
- Vegetarian-friendly foods that contain riboflavin include; eggs, most cereals, mushrooms, milk, pumpkin, sesame seeds, and wheat germ.
Vitamin B12 plays a role in boosting immune function. You only need to find a few micrograms on a daily basis in order to get sufficient vitamin B12.
- It is recommended that you eat eggs, soya milk, cheeses, yeast extract, vegetable stock and yoghurts.
Vitamin D helps to maintain healthy eyes, teeth and bones and is important to maintain our body’s energy levels. The recommended daily amount is around 10 micrograms
- It can be found in: soya milk, butter, eggs, soya cheeses, yoghurt and for pescetarians oily fish (mackerel, sardines and tuna) and also cod liver oil.
It is also well-known that we can absorb vitamin D from the rays of the sun.
You can find lots more information about vegetarian diets on the NHS Change4Life website here.