There are a lot of reasons for someone to suddenly want to become a vegetarian, apart from their sympathy towards animals. 

Vegetarianism isn’t a new concept. In fact, the earliest examples of living solely on vegetables and eliminating meat can be seen in ancient Indian, Greek and Italian civilizations. Vegetarianism started as a protest towards animal cruelty by religious groups, but later, the health benefits of this eating habit became obvious to people. These days, a large part of the population become vegetarians mainly for their own health as well as because they don’t want to be the cause of animal cruelty and animal pain. 

What can Vegetarians Eat? 

A vegetarian diet mainly consists of whole grains, nuts, and seeds, fruits and vegetables, all kinds of legumes, and also dairy products and eggs. This is where vegetarians are different from vegans; vegans eliminate all food that is animal-derived, including dairy and eggs, while vegetarians add some forms of it in their meals. In short, a vegetarian diet is a plant-based diet with eggs, milk and other dairy products included, as long as getting them doesn’t hurt the animals in any way. 

There are, however, many different kinds of vegetarianism, each for different health purposes. For example, Lacto-vegetarianism means excluding every kind of meat and fish, eggs and poultry, but including dairy; Ovo-vegetarianism allows eggs but not milk or dairy; Lacto-Ovo vegetarianism allows both dairy and eggs, but eliminates meat, poultry, and fish; and finally, pescatarian vegetarianism allows fish, but excludes meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy. On the other hand, some people maintain a plant-based diet but occasionally allow a little meat, fish, eggs, and dairy; this is called a flexitarian diet or a semi-vegetarian diet. 

Veganism is also a kind of vegetarianism that excludes everything derived from animals, including milk and dairy products, eggs and even clothes, bags and shoes made from animal fur and skin. 

Getting the best nutrition on a Vegetarian Diet 

What most vegetarians miss out on are proteins derived from animal sources, especially the vegetarians who also eliminate eggs from their meals. Other nutrients they might miss out on are calcium, zinc, Vitamin B12, and iron. These are the nutrients that you need to get from alternative sources and plant-based sources. 

Here is a list of all the additional nutrients vegetarians need, and the sources they can get them from. 

  1. Protein

Since vegetarians don’t eat any kind of meat – poultry, pork or beef, fowl, their main source of protein needs to come from plants. Some notable sources include: 

  • All kinds of beans: kidney, red and black; 
  • High-protein whole grains in moderation, including quinoa, Kamut, and amaranth; 
  • Tofu; 
  • Tempeh; 
  • Edamame; 
  • Nuts and butter made from nuts; 
  • Lentils and other legumes; 
  • Veggie burgers and patties; and 
  • Eggs, if allowed. 

Plant-based protein sources are just as nutritious as lean meat and poultry, but without the added harm to your blood pressure and cholesterol level. 

  • Iron 

Vegetarians also lack iron in their diet which is available in high amounts in red meat and turkey meat. However, iron can also be found in soy-based foods, whole-wheat bread and grains, apricots, eggs if you eat them, fortified breakfast cereals, some nuts and beans, legumes and dried prunes. 

  • Zinc

Plant-based sources of zinc include soybeans, veggie meat that is available in forms of burger patties and nuggets, soy milk, split peas, zinc-fortified cereals made from grains (look for the nutrition claims on the packets), wheat germ, black-eyed peas, lentils, and mushrooms. If you eat eggs and dairy, zinc can also be found in fortified eggs, yogurt, and cheese. 

  • Calcium 

Calcium is mainly found in milk and dairy products (butter, yogurt, and cheese), but if you don’t consume them, there are other plant-based and fortified sources of calcium that are equally nutritious. 

As a vegetarian, you can get sufficient amount of calcium from edamame, tofu, and sesame tahini, as well as non-dairy soy milk and almond milk; special calcium-fortified orange juices available in the market can also help you meet your daily requirement, as can dark leafy greens like bok choy, spinach, and collard.

  • Vitamin B12 

Fortified veggie burger meats and patties are filled with Vitamin b12 nutrients, as well as some breakfast cereal and soy milk. 

  • Vitamin D 

Eggs are the best sources of Vitamin D, but if you don’t eat eggs, you can still make sure you are getting the required amount by spending at least 15 minutes every day under the sun. Vitamin D supplements are also quite important in making sure that you have this important nutrition in your body. 

Some particular brands of rice milk and soy milk, breakfast cereals and margarine also have Vitamin D added to them. 

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acid 

If you eat fish and seafood regularly, you won’t have to worry about getting enough Omega-3 fatty acids for your health. This nutrient is also available in some fortified eggs which are good for your heart. 

However, if your vegetarian diet doesn’t include eggs or fish, you can still get some Omega-3 fatty acids from Canola and soy oil, walnuts, soybeans, and flaxseeds. If this isn’t enough for you, Omega-3 is also included in the most important supplements. 

  • Protein

Since vegetarians don’t eat any kind of meat – poultry, pork or beef, fowl, their main source of protein needs to come from plants. Some notable sources include: 

It’s not just strict vegetarianism, but all healthy eating routines should focus more on fruits and vegetables, plant-based proteins and other nutrition, instead of meat. The less meat you eat, the healthier your heart becomes. This is one of the main reasons behind so many people opting for a vegetarian life – not just because they feel deeply for animals, but because they also care about their own health. 

A plant-based eating habit is the best one; although meat and animal-based nutrients give us protein, iron, and other important nutrients, too much of this food can lead to an unhealthy life, especially in terms of our heart, our blood pressure and cholesterol. Therefore, it is extremely important that we learn to eat moderately and consistently, focusing on all the aspects of clean eating.