Essential Nutrients in Vegetarian Diet

Updated at: Jun 14, 2011
Essential Nutrients in Vegetarian Diet

Diet Basics- If you are a vegetarian or are planning to become one then make sure to include essential nutrients in your vegetarian diet. Make sure that you consume adequate quantity of iron, vitamin B12, zinc, calcium and vitamin D.

Dr Poonam Sachdev
Exercise & FitnessWritten by: Dr Poonam SachdevPublished at: Jun 14, 2011

VegetablesIf you eat a well planned vegetarian diet you will get all the essential vitamins, minerals and other nutrients needed to maintain good health. However people with vegan diet plans are at risk of developing nutritional deficiencies for nutrients some nutrients like iron, vitamin B12, zinc, calcium and vitamin D. To ensure that you receive adequate amount of these nutrients you will have to eat a planned vegetarian diet.




Iron deficiency or low iron levels in the blood causes anemia. Vegetarian foods rich in iron include nuts, seeds, legumes and dark green, leafy vegetables. Vitamin-C rich foods like tomatoes, broccoli, oranges, brussel sprouts, kiwi fruit, strawberries, guavas and pineapples increase absorption of iron from vegetarian foods.




Dairy products are the richest source of calcium. Vegans should take calcium supplement or calcium fortified foods. Consult a dietitian if you think your diet does not contain adequate calcium.


Vitamin B12


Vitamin B12 is needed for formation of healthy red blood cells and nerve tissue. Deficiency of B12 can cause anemia or nerve damage. Vitamin B12 is found only in animal foods and plant based foods lack vitamin B12. Vegans need supplements or B12 fortified foods to prevent a B12 deficiency.


Vitamin D


Dairy products are rich source Vitamin D. Calcium and vitamin D are needed for formation and maintenance of bones. Vegan diet lacks vitamin D, but you can get enough vitamin D if you are exposed to sunlight daily for just 10 to 15 minutes. If you are not exposed to sunlight to ensure that you get adequate vitamin D take supplements or vitamin D fortified foods.




Foods of animal origin such as meats, liver, seafood and eggs are rich in zinc but it found in a variety of plant foods such as grains, legumes and nuts. However zinc from plant based foods is not absorbed well by the body. Zinc deficiency can cause hair loss, delayed wound healing and altered or decrease in taste. To avoid zinc deficiency, plan your diet well. Eat plant based foods rich in zinc such as whole grains, legumes, and nuts or if needed consult your doctor for supplement.


Considering a Vegetarian Diet


If you plan to modify your eating habits and eat only plant based foods consult a registered dietitian for advice regarding planning your meals. The dietitian can guide you regarding diet basics and foods you should eat to ensure that you get all the essential vitamins and minerals from the foods you eat.


Read more articles on Diet Basics.




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