6 important vegetarian foods for proper diet
Key Nutrient You Get: Protein
More Vegetarian Sources of Protein: Nuts and seeds, soy, eggs and dairy
The first thing a lot of people think when they think of a meatless diet is, \"where will you get protein?\" Most get way more protein-our bodies\' \"building blocks\"-than we need and that we can even use, so this actually is not a primary nutrition concern. (Most people need between 0.36 and 0.45 gram of protein per pound of body weight, which works out to be about 60 grams for a 150-pound person.)
There are plenty of plant-based sources of protein, including beans, lentils, peas, nuts and seeds, whole grains, tofu and tempeh. With the exception of soyfoods, all these foods offer \"incomplete protein,\" meaning they have some, but not all, of the essential amino acids we need-the compounds that make up protein. Eating a wide variety of foods ensures that you get all the amino acids, but you don\'t need to get all the amino acids at each meal. Eggs and dairy products (cheese, milk, yogurt) are other vegetarian options that deliver complete protein.
2. Dark Leafy Greens
Key Nutrient You Get: Iron
More Vegetarian Sources of Iron: Beans, fortified breads and cereals, raisins
Iron is an important mineral-it shuttles oxygen from our lungs to our cells-yet iron deficiency is the most common vitamin deficiency in the world! In the U.S., it affects 2 percent of adult men and 9 to 20 percent of women.
Although iron is most easily absorbed from animal foods (the form of iron called \"heme\"), you can also get it from plant foods (\"non-heme\"). You just need to eat greater quantities of it. Iron is found in these plant-based foods: dark leafy greens (such as spinach and kale), beans and raisins, as well as blackstrap molasses. You can also get iron from fortified breads and cereals (read the Nutrition Facts label to see if a product has iron). Pairing these plant sources of iron with a food rich in vitamin C (such as tomatoes, citrus fruit and potatoes) can help you better absorb iron.
3. Fortified Soymilk
Key Nutrient You Get: Vitamin B12
More Vegetarian Sources of Vitamin B12: Fortified cereals
Vitamin B12 helps your body turn food into energy. Since vitamin B12 only occurs naturally in animal foods, vegetarians who eat dairy and eggs probably will get enough B12 from these foods, but if you\'re going vegan or don\'t eat dairy or eggs often, make sure to get some B12-fortified foods in your diet.
Many nondairy milk alternatives have B12 added, as do certain cereals-just check the Nutrition Facts label if you\'re not sure if your cereal or milk alternative contains B12.