5 Important Nutrients For Vegetarians


Vegetarians are mainly those avoid the consumption of animal and animal products depending on the type they follow. Eg. Lacto vegetarians eat dairy products but not eggs, poultry, meat or sea food, Lacto – ovo vegetarians eat eggs and dairy products but not poultry, meat or sea food, Vegans do not eat any animal products including honey and so on and so forth.

No matter what category of vegetarianism one follows, it is important to choose a variety of foods in the diet to get the nutrients needed to be healthy. Some nutrients are difficult to get from a vegetarian diet, especially a vegan diet, either because the plant sources have smaller amounts of these nutrients in them in comparison to the animal sources or they are not well absorbed from the plant sources.

Going meatless even a few days a week may be a healthier option for you and for our planet. We are listing down 5 key nutrients to keep in mind when you decide to be a vegetarian or are on a vegetarian diet.

Calcium: Milk and milk products are a good source of Calcium. If you are a Vegan then it is important that you pay attention to the plant sources of Calcium. Some of them are as follows:

Calcium fortified tofu

Fortified soy milk and almond milk

Green Leafy Vegetables like spinach, methi, radish leaves, etc

Vegetables like broccoli, asparagus, bok choy, brussel sprouts, cabbage

Calcium fortified breakfast cereals

Sesame (Til) seeds

Pulses like rajma, chole, black eyed beans, etc

Dried fruits like raisins, dried plums, dried apricots, etc


Iron: Iron from animal sources is better absorbed than from the plan sources. But that does not mean that vegetarians need to worry about not getting enough Iron. Because the Iron from  vegetarian sources is not readily absorbed, consuming Vitamin C with Iron rich foods markedly helps its absorption. It is recommended that vegetarians have more of iron rich foods in comparison to the non vegetarians for getting the required amount of Iron for body needs. Listed below are a few plant sources of Iron:

Pulses like rajma, chole, black eyed beans, etc

Green Leafy Vegetables like spinach, methi, radish leaves, etc

Iron fortified breakfast cereals

Cereals like quinoa, brown rice, oatmeal, bajra

Seeds like pine, sunflower, sesame, pumpkin, etc

Nuts like almonds, pistachios, etc

Remember that tea, coffee or cocoa have compounds that bind iron from food and make it unavailable for absorption. Hence avoid these with the intake of Iron rich foods.

Protein: The protein quality of animal sources is higher than of the plant sources. This is because most plant sources of protein do not contain all the essential amino acids (building blocks of proteins). However, vegetarians need not worry. The protein quality of plant foods can be improved by combining different types of plant proteins at the same meal (called protein complementation). For example mixing a cereal and a pulse (dal and chaawal, roti and dal, hummus and pita bread) or by combining a cereal with a dairy product (rice kheer, dalia porridge, oats porridge). Never rely on only one kind of protein for you may be missing out on other nutrients.  Vegetarian sources of protein include:

Dals (moong dal, masoor dal, chana dal, etc)

Pulses (chickpeas, rajma, chawli beans, etc)

Nuts (almonds, walnuts, pistachios, etc)

Seeds (sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc)

Soya and soya products like tofu

Low fat milk and milk products (curd, paneer, cheese, buttermilk)


Vitamin D: Our bodies produce the bone-forming vitamin D when we expose our skin to the sun but with so much of our being indoors in our life today means we are not hitting our daily targets. There aren’t many food sources for vitamin D – especially if you’re vegetarian or vegan. Some commercially fortified products can help in achieving your targets:

Fortified milk and milk products

Fortified cereals

In addition to these you may need a supplement prescribed by your doctor as per your need and finally get plenty of sunshine.


Vitamin B12: Found in only animal sources, getting Vitamin B12 from food is nearly impossible for Vegans. However, it would not be a major concern for those consuming milk and milk products. Vegans may need a supplement or foods fortified with Vitamin B12.

There are many benefits to eating a vegetarian or vegan diet—and this article is not meant to scare you away from it! However, making smart food choices is essential. Here’s to a healthy and balanced plant-based diet!

Café Nutrition is a counselling company run by a group of nutritionists and dietitians offering healthy plans for weight loss in Mumbai and around the world. We are one of the top dietitians in Mumbai with a rich experience of 20 years.