Five essential Nutrients for Vegetarians

vegetarian nutrients sourceIt's important to vary a vegetarian diet because some nutrients are not present in vegetarian foods or are less easily absorbed by the body than those in meat or fish.

Any diet that is not planned properly can mean you miss out on essential nutrients.

Contrary to popular belief, most vegetarians have enough protein and calcium (found in dairy products) in their diet.

However, five nutrients that vegetarians need to be careful to get enough of are vitamin D, vitamin B12, iron, selenium and omega-3 fatty acids.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is needed for the absorption of calcium, which keeps the bones and teeth healthy.

Vitamin D deficiency is linked to illnesses including rickets (weak bones) in children and osteoporosis or osteomalacia (soft bones) in adults.

The main source of vitamin D is the action of sunlight on skin. Other vegetarian sources of vitamin D are foods fortified with vitamin D, such as margarine, some dairy foods and certain breakfast cereals.

Vitamins B12 and B2

Vitamin B12 is needed for growth, repair and general health.

B12 is only found naturally in animal products. If you regularly eat dairy products or eggs it's likely that you're getting enough. But if you avoid all animal products it's important to have a reliable source of vitamin B12 within your diet.

Good sources of B12 are milk, cheese, eggs, fortified yeast extracts (for example, Marmite), fortified breakfast cereals and fortified soya products. Vitamin B2 is found in milk, wholegrain bread, fortified breakfast cereals and yeast extracts.


Vegetarians are more likely to lack iron than meat-eaters. If there is a lack of iron in your blood, your organs and tissues will not get as much oxygen as they usually do, and this could develop into anaemia.

Plant sources of iron include pulses, green vegetables (such as watercress, broccoli, spring greens and okra), bread and fortified breakfast cereals. It's easier to absorb iron from food if we eat it with foods that contain vitamin C, so have some fruit or veg, or a glass of fruit juice with your meal. Tea makes it harder for the body to absorb iron. Try not to drink tea 30 minutes before and after a meal.


It's important to get enough selenium, which promotes a strong immune system.

Brazil nuts are a good source of selenium, so try to eat a couple every day. Eating a small bag of mixed unsalted nuts can be a convenient way to get your weekly selenium intake, but make sure it contains brazils.

Bread and eggs also provide some selenium. If you eat a mostly vegetarian diet but eat fish occasionally, you should be getting enough selenium.

Fatty acids

There is evidence that omega-3 fatty acids, primarily those found in oily fish, when eaten as part of a healthy diet, can help maintain a healthy heart and reduce risk of heart disease.

Sources of omega-3 suitable for vegetarians include flaxseed oil, rapeseed oil, soya oil and soya-based foods (for example, tofu), walnuts and omega-3 fortified egg. Using a tablespoon of flaxseed, rapeseed, soya or walnut oil in salad dressings or stir fries is a good way of adding omega-3 to your diet.

Source : WebMD

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