Vegetarian Nutrition

What is a vegetarian diet?

There are many types of vegetarian types. Some people eat dairy, some eat fish, some don’t eat any product that comes from an animal.

Click here for a chart detailing some types of vegetarian diets.

People may choose to follow a vegetarian diet for many reasons – ethical reasons, religious beliefs, health issues or personal preferences.

“It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.” Reference.

Healthy vegetarian diets can contain good amounts of fiber, lean proteins, heart healthy fats and antioxidants (which can help the immune system).

However, inadequately planned vegetarian diets can lead to health issues. Therefore, people who follow a vegetarian diet need to be aware of certain nutrients. See below for key nutrients and their sources.

Protein – beans, soy products, nuts, nut butters, wholegrains, dairy products, eggs

Vitamin B12 – B12 supplements, fortified foods such as cereals and tofu (check the label), dairy products, eggs

Calcium – milk, cheese, yogurt, beans, soynuts, broccoli, oranges, almonds, fortified milk alternatives (soymilk, almond milk, rice milk etc), calcium-fortified juice, fortified cereals, calcium-set tofu

Vitamin D – fortified milk, fortified soymilk, fortified juice, fortified cereals, tofu, eggs

Iron – tofu, eggs, dark green leavy vegetables, dried fruits, wholegrains, beans, iron-fortified cereals, enriched rice or pasta

Zinc – fortified cereals, peas, beans, lentils, chickpeas, spinach, seeds, nuts, soymilk, dairy products, eggs

Essential fatty acids – flaxseeds, flaxseeds oil, nuts

 

Is soy safe?

Foods containing soy can play an important role in vegetarian diets. Tofu, tempeh, soymilk, and foods made from soy protein are good sources of a number of nutrients. However, there has been much talk in the media recently about soy and it’s safety. So, is it safe? Click here to to access a factsheet answering these questions.