9 Essential Items In A Vegetarian Diet
Today let’s take a look at 9 essential foods present in a Vegetarian diet.
You guessed it, tofu. This wonder-food is and should be a staple of any vegetarian or vegan diet. Versatile, it can be a healthy substitute for meat in almost any situation due largely to it’s texture and substance. Plain tofu also has a very mild flavour, which is a great bonus as it absorbs spices and flavorings well, part of what makes it a great meat-replacement.
But tofu does more than just trick your brain into thinking you are eating meat. It delivers when it comes to nutrition as well. Tofu is a great source of protein – one of the main reasons for eating meat – as well as contains high levels of iron and zinc, again something vegetarians especially must ensure is included in their diet.
As an added bonus tofu also has both calcium and vitamin D, the vitamin which allows the body to absorb calcium, meaning it is a great way to fortify bones and increase calcium intake in the diet.
Another great source of protein to be included in your diet, nuts are a must-have for any vegetarian diet. The wide range of nuts available also means you have variety, while gaining the nutritional value often missing for vegetarians. While essentially all nuts are high in protein, different nuts will provide different health benefits.
Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E and zinc are some of the most common nutrients found in most nuts, especially the the softer nuts such as peanuts, cashews, macadamia nuts, almonds, walnuts and brazil nuts. Pecans and walnuts also contain potassium, magnesium and calcium.
For the highest level of calcium, however, turn to almonds, which are also a great source of fibre. Add a variety of nuts to your diet – a great way is to add chopped nuts to a salad – to harness the full range of vitamins and minerals they have to offer.
Grains are an essential part of any diet. High in fibre, grains help lower cholesterol and increase digestion – both vital parts of keeping a happy healthy body. Grains are also full of zinc and vitamin B. Eating brown rice or whole grain flour is a great way to increase the amount of grains in your diet, or additionally by eating whole-grain cereals and oatmeals. There is a wide variety of grains to choose from, all with a different balance of vitamins and minerals vital to any vegetarian diet.
This legume is a double punch, as it provides a great source of both fibre and protein, two of the most important parts of a healthy diet, especially for vegetarians. Additionally, lentils are extremely high in iron and B vitamins. Iron is extremely important in maintaining a healthy body, keeping up energy levels and maintaining body health.
It is also something most commonly associated with red meats, and it is through meat that most people obtain their highest sources of iron. It is therefore increasingly important for vegetarians to seek out foods rich in iron and B vitamins to supplement what they would previously have received from red meats.
Like lentils, beans are an excellent source of protein, iron and fibre in your diet. The soluble fibre which is the primary ingredient in most beans helps to lower cholesterol and maintain a healthy digestive tract. B vitamins and zinc are again founding high levels in beans
Along with some amounts of calcium, this makes them a great way to get a wide variety of vitamins and minerals in one food. Beans can be added to most meals, or substituted for the mean protein, as they tend to be quite filling.
You’ve probably heard that ‘dark leafy greens’ are some of the best when it comes to nutrition, and for vegetarians this is especially true. Dark vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, collard greens and kale have some of the highest levels of nutrients for their size, one of the main minerals being iron.
As mentioned, iron can be harder to get for those that don’t eat meat, so finding green sources is a great way to boost iron levels. Spinach, in particular, has one of the highest levels in terms of greens, and like most dark vegetables, contains folic acid and vitamin A as well.
#7. Dried Fruits
Again, it’s all about the fibre and iron. Dried fruits are a delicious and simple way to get your daily intake of iron and fibre. The added bonus of fruits is that many of them are rich in other vitamins as well, including vitamin C. Whether you take your vitamin C from fresh or dried fruit, it is extremely important as it helps the body to absorb iron.
Without the vitamin, much of the iron we ingest is wasted and not taken in by the body. Dried fruits, such as apricots, cranberries, prunes etc. are a great way to boost your vitamins while providing a delicious source of fibre and iron.
While it may not be the first food to come to mind, seaweed is actually an amazing vitamin and mineral rich food. Great for vegetarians, it helps boost nearly all essential vitamins including A, B, C and E. It is also packed full of minerals, such as the all important iron, as well as calcium, magnesium and iodine. Whether dried or fresh, you’d be surprised at how palatable seaweed can be, and just how many ways it can simply be added to your diet, be it nori in sushi, or as part of a salad.
Last but not least is dairy. While vegans may steer clear of any animal-based dairy products, dairy is a great way for vegetarians to get a well-rounded diet. While calcium is a key factor in this, as it is most readily available through dairy products, many of the above foods listed prove that calcium can be found elsewhere if needed.
One of the few things that cannot, though, is the vitamin B12. B12 is an essential vitamin which can only be found in animals. Because of this, it is easily obtained for most people, through their consumption of meat.
When it comes to vegetarians, however, B12 needs to be obtained through dairy. Whether milk, cheese or even eggs these animal by-products are one of the few ways to ensure your body gets the essential vitamin (B12) that it needs.