What vitamins and minerals am I missing on a vegetarian diet?

Published June 15, 2014

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A vegetarian diet can provide all the nutrients for a healthy body, but it does need to be well planned. Due to plant‐based foods having smaller amounts of certain vitamins and minerals compared to animal products, or they aren’t absorbed as efficiently, you could be missing out on important dietary requirements if you don’t plan accordingly. A vegetarian diet that excludes poultry, meat and seafood but may include eggs and dairy products could be missing adequate amounts of:

  • Protein1
  • Iron1
  • Zinc1
  • Iodine2
  • Omega 32

How do I ensure I get enough vitamins and minerals if I’m vegetarian? If you’re vegetarian you should include a wide variety of foods to ensure you obtain all the nutrients your body needs.

  • It’s important to consume a range of different proteins to ensure you obtain enough essential amino acids, which are needed for tissue growth and repair. Good vegetarian sources of protein include beans, peas and lentils, nuts and seeds, soy products including tofu and cereals1 such as quinoa. Eggs and dairy products will also add to your protein intake if consumed.
  • Iron is not as well absorbed from plant‐sources as it is from animal products. However combining vegetarian iron sources with vitamin C and food acids from fruit and vegetables can enhance its absorption.1 Good iron sources for vegetarians include tofu, legumes, wholegrains, green leafy vegetables and dried fruit.1 Iron supplements may also be beneficial in some cases.
  • Phytic acid from foods such as beans, grains and seeds, can combine with zinc in plant foods to decrease its absorption in the body. To get around this, vegetarians can use soaking and sprouting methods for foods containing phytic acid and eat leavened bread.2 Soy products and cheese are also good sources of zinc.2
  • Increase iodine intake by consuming sea vegetables such as kombu and nori. Iodine is essential for normal thyroid function and metabolism.
  • Vegetarian diets tend to be lower in omega-3, which is required for a healthy heart and brain.2 To increase your intake consume eggs, flaxseed, walnuts and canola and take a vegetarian omega-3 supplement if necessary.
  • You could also consider a multivitamin to help top up your diet.

Always read the label. Use only as directed. Consult your healthcare professional if symptoms persist. Vitamin supplements should not replace a balanced diet.

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