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  • Shirley Lai

Meatless and Animal-free Nutrient Sources

Shirley Lai, HK BioTek Intern

Since a vegetarian/vegan diet eliminates many meat products, people will think that they are also eliminating important vitamins and nutrients. Although it may be true that they are eliminating foods, it is not necessarily true that they don’t get enough vitamins and nutrients. For example, because animal products are largely emphasized as a main source protein, people don’t realize that you can get protein from healthier options, such as vegetables.

When eating vegetarian/vegan diet, it may seem a bit more difficult. All it takes is a little research. There are actually many other healthy vegetarian/vegan sources that can keep you healthy, but are just not as well-known.

Here is a compilation of some nutrient sources:

  • Protein:

    • Beans (black beans, black eyed peas)

    • Nut Products (almonds, almond butter, peanut butter)

    • Legumes (lentils, chickpeas)

    • Soy Products (tempeh, tofu, soy milk, edamame)

    • Seeds (hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds)

    • Vegetables (green peas, artichokes, spinach, broccoli, asparagus, green beans, spirulina)

    • Grains (oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice)

    • Non-vegans: dairy products (milk, yogurt), eggs

  • Vitamin B12 (specifically states “fortified with B12 vitamins”):

    • Non-dairy milks (almond milk, soy milk)

    • Bran and whole grain cereals

    • Some seaweeds

    • Non-vegans: dairy products, eggs, supplements

  • Calcium:

    • Soy Products (tempeh, soy beans, tofu)

    • Calcium-fortified products (soy milk, almond milk, orange juice)

    • Vegetables (collard greens, kale, broccoli, bok choy, okra, raw fennel, artichoke, bean sprouts, spinach)

    • Fruits (blackberries, oranges, dried apricots, figs, dates)

  • Iron:

    • Legumes and beans (lentils, lima beans, kidney beans, chickpeas)

    • Soy Products (edamame, tempeh, tofu)

    • Grains (quinoa, fortified cereals, brown rice, oatmeal)

    • Nuts and Seeds (pumpkin seeds, squash seeds, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, cashews)

    • Vegetables (tomato sauce, swiss chard, collard greens, spinach, green pepper)

  • Zinc:

    • Soy Products (Tofu, Tempeh, Miso)

    • Legumes and Beans (Lentils, Garbanzo, Pinto, Kidney)

    • Nuts and Seeds (Almonds, Walnuts, Pistachios, Pecans, Cashews, Peanuts, Peanut Butter, Sunflower Seeds, chia seeds)

    • Vegetables (Broccoli, Corn)

Everyone, no matter if they are vegetarian/vegan or not, should monitor their diet in order to consume an adequate amount of vitamins and nutrients. It is possible for anyone to be vitamin deficient, especially if they are eating mostly junk foods and candy, and skipping over fruits and vegetables. Even if the label for a food claims to be healthy or vegan, it is important to read the nutrition facts or ingredients to avoid any unhealthy additives. Fresh and home-cooked foods are usually a better option if possible.

You may have noticed that some foods fit into more than one of these categories. Healthy meals should combine several nutritional components to be balanced. There are many more nutritious foods that are not on the list as well. The best thing to do for your health is to eat a wide variety of healthy foods and consume enough nutrients and vitamins.


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