Important Sources of Vitamins and Nutrients

Louisville dietitian Michelle Eckhart highly recommends that those following a vegetarian diet include the following nutrients in their diet:

• Protein
has many important functions and is essential for growth and maintenance. Protein needs can easily be met by eating a variety of plant-based foods. Combining different protein sources in the same meal isn't necessary. Sources of protein for vegetarians include beans, nuts, nut butters, peas and soy products (examples: tofu, tempeh, veggie burgers). Milk products and eggs are also good protein sources.

• Iron
functions primarily as a carrier of oxygen in the blood. Sources include iron-fortified breakfast cereals, spinach, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, lentils, turnip greens, molasses, whole wheat breads, peas and some dried fruits (examples: dried apricots, prunes, raisins).

• Calcium
is used for building bones and teeth and maintaining bone strength. Sources other than milk products include fortified breakfast cereals, some soy products (examples: tofu, soy-based beverages that are calcium-fortified), calcium-fortified orange juice, and some dark-green, leafy vegetables (examples: collard greens, turnip greens, bok choy, mustard greens).

• Zinc
is necessary for many biochemical reactions and helps the immune system function. Sources include many types of beans (examples: white beans, kidney beans and chickpeas), zinc-fortified breakfast cereals, wheat germ and pumpkin seeds. Milk products also can be a source.

• Vitamin B12
is found in animal products and some fortified foods. Sources include milk products, eggs and foods that have been fortified with vitamin B12. These include breakfast cereals, soy-based beverages, veggie burgers and nutritional yeast. Special B12 pills or shots may be recommended for some vegetarians.