Vegetarians and Nutrition: Eating Healthy

Complementary Proteins

Eating healthy by combining plant proteins to make a complete protein can be as simple as eating a legume (peanut butter) with a grain (whole wheat bread). Alternatively, nuts and seeds can be combined with dairy products or grains. Examples of complete protein combinations are:

• Rice and beans;

• Bean-vegetable chili served with flour tortillas;

• Baked beans and corn bread;

• Hummus (made with chickpeas and sesame seeds);

• Cheese rolled in chopped nuts;

• Bread sticks with sesame seeds;

• Multigrain bread made with sunflower seeds;

• Macaroni and cheese;

• Split-pea soup sprinkled with cheese and served with a whole wheat roll.

Tofu, dark green vegetables, seeds, nuts, and whole grains, are rich sources of:

• Calcium;

• Zinc;

• Riboflavin;

• B vitamins.

With a few recipes, eating healthy is unlike anything you have experienced before!

Dairy products, egg yolks and fish supply vitamin B12. Fish supplies the critical Omega 3 fatty acids that are so important for a healthy cardiovascular system.

Iron and Vegetarians

For a strict vegetarian, eating healthy may be a diet that needs additional iron. The human body has a more difficult time absorbing “nonheme” iron from plants, versus the readily available heme iron available in a more diverse diet, such as a straight meat diet or the other types of vegetarian diets that include some dairy or fish. As a matter of fact, you only absorb around one fourth as much iron from plants as you do from meats. It is critical for vegetarians to include foods high in vitamin C with every meal, as vitamin C enhances iron absorption, and helps round out healthy diets.

Foods High In Vitamin C:

• Citrus fruits;

• Potatoes;

• Broccoli;

• Peppers;

• Cabbage;

• Cantaloupe;

• Strawberries;

• Tomatoes;

• Mangoes,

Are a few.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is needed for calcium absorption, among other important bodily functions. Some good food sources for healthy diets and eating healthy are:

• Sunlight so that your body can manufacture Vitamin D (which I think is incredible!) The body can actually supply all of your daily needs for vitamin D when combined with enough skin exposure to maintain the process (about 15 minutes a day).

• Dairy products that have not been overheated in the pasteurization process, which converts calcium into a form that our body cannot use, (more on this later, in another section of our site)

• Egg yolks;

• Fatty fish, like salmon, herring, and sardines.

Nutritional Needs

As part of eating healthy, the nutritional needs of vegetarians need to be met in a different way than meat eaters. Adjustments can be made in a few areas where the average vegetarian diet is lacking in nutritional items such as:

• Protein;

• Calcium;

• Zinc;

• Iron;

• Vitamins D;

• B12 and

• Riboflavin.

A Balanced Diet

Healthy diets and eating healthy for vegetarians will consist of a combination of grains, seeds and legumes to obtain proteins with all of the essential amino acids, as well as essential minerals. It is especially important to monitor children who are vegetarians to insure that they have all the necessary proteins, amino acids and nutrients for proper growth, as well as healthy, nutritional snack foods. Strict vegetarians as a rule, should increase their protein consumption by 20% to 25%. These proteins should come from the mixed sources mentioned earlier. Soy products are essential for strict vegetarians since soy is a plant source of complete protein.

Please browse through the other sections of our site for more information about your most important asset: your health. Contact us for any suggestions.

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