Vegetarian? Get Munching on These Essential Minerals!

If you’re a vegetarian, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’re probably getting more nutrients than your meat-eating counterparts. Sure, you have to be careful about ensuring you have plenty of protein, but with all the fresh produce and nuts you’re now eating, you’ve got vitamin and mineral wellness in the bag, right? Unfortunately, a vegetarian diet can be lacking in some essential nutrients, so watch out for these key players in your well-being.


Iron – Iron is so essential because it carries the oxygen in your blood, and without it you can become anaemic. You can find this much-needed mineral in two forms of food; heme sources, including meats, fish, and poultry; and the non-heme sources, such as legumes, vegetables, dried fruit, and seeds. Obviously, as a vegetarian you’ll be going for the latter category, but iron from non-heme sources is not as efficiently absorbed and used as that from heme sources. Therefore, the Institutes of Medicine recommends even higher levels of iron for vegetarians. If you’re a vegetarian man or menopausal women, your daily iron target is 14mg, while childbearing vegetarian women should be aiming for a daily dose of 33mg. Go for spinach, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, lentils, turnip greens, molasses, whole wheat breads, peas, and dried apricots, prunes, and raisins.


Calcium – Your body needs calcium for muscle contractions, blood clotting, nerve conduction, and bone strength and integrity, to name a few. If you’re under the age of 51, you need roughly 1000mg of calcium every day, and you need an extra 200mg if you’re over that age. As a vegetarian or vegan, you can get the calcium you need from calcium-fortified soy-milk, calcium-fortified breakfast cereals and orange juice, tofu made with calcium sulfate, and certain dark-green leafy vegetables such as collard greens, spinach, turnip greens, bok choy, and mustard greens.


Zinc – This mineral is vital for maintaining your senses of smell and taste, supporting healthy skin and hair, and arming your body for resistance to infection. Most people need 40mg of zinc every day, but vegetarians may need 50% more zinc than this – according to the National Institutes of Health – as there is a lower absorption level of zinc from plant foods. Therefore, you need to eat plenty of beans (such as white beans, kidney beans, and chickpeas), zinc-fortified breakfast cereals, wheat germ, and pumpkin seeds.

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