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Does a Vegetarian Diet Provide All the Nutrients You Need?

Vegetarian diets have the potential to lower levels of obesity, reduce the risk of heart disease and decrease blood pressure. However, similar to eliminating anything from the diet, nutrient deficiencies can occur. Vegetarians have the potential to experience deficiencies in calcium, iron, protein, vitamin B-12 and vitamin D.

True or False

1. Cheese is always vegetarian.

2. Eggs are a rich source of protein, vitamin B 12 and vitamin D.

3. Vegetarians can get all the nutrients they need without eating meat.

4. Dark green vegetables such as spinach and broccoli are good sources of calcium.

 

Quiz Answers: 1: False 2: True 3: True 4: True

Vegetarian diets have the potential to lower levels of obesity, reduce the risk of heart disease and decrease blood pressure. However, similar to eliminating anything from the diet, nutrient deficiencies can occur. Vegetarians have the potential to experience deficiencies in calcium, iron, protein, vitamin B-12 and vitamin D.

Nutrient Functions

Calcium helps build and maintain strong bones and teeth. Dairy products, such as milk, yogurtand cheese, are high in calcium. Some vegetarian diets exclude dairy products but you still can get calcium from plant-based foods such as broccoli, spinach, almonds, chickpeas, black beans and calcium-fortified juice.

Our bodies need iron for red blood cells to transport oxygen around the body and energy production. Eating foods with vitamin C, such as citrus foods and tomatoes, can increase iron absorption. Iron-rich vegetarian foods include soybeans, dark leafy greens, beans, eggs and fortified breakfast cereals.

Proteins are the building blocks of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood. Protein can be found in most plant-sourced and animal-sourced foods. High protein foods include legumes, beans, peas, lentils, whole grains, soy products, nuts and dairy products.

Vitamin B-12 plays a crucial role in nerve and blood cell health, DNA synthesis and prevention of anemia. Vitamin B-12 is not a concern for vegetarians who eat dairy products or eggs. Vegans should be aware of their vitamin B-12 intake and potentially take a supplement. Sources rich in vitamin B-12 include eggs, dairy products and vitamin B-12-fortified foods.

Vitamin D keeps bones, teeth and muscles healthy. Dairy products and getting regular sunlight are rich sources of vitamin D. Additional sources include eggs, and vitamin D-fortified milks and cereals. Vegans should be aware of vitamin D intake and potentially take a supplement, especially in the winter months.

Resources

Please visit https://tinyurl.com/NDSUVegetarianDiet for more information and healthful recipes for everyone to enjoy.

 

Maggie Cowan, Dietetic Intern,
NDSU Extension

Filed under: fca newsletter

Sponsored in part by the Sanford Health Foundation.

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