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How to Be a Healthy Vegetarian

What are the pros and cons of becoming a vegetarian? If you have considered becoming or are already a vegetarian, are you receiving the appropriate amounts of nutrients in your diet?  What supplements should you take? Join House Call Doctor as she reviews crucial tips on how to be a healthy vegetarian and avoid any medical pitfalls.

By
Sanaz Majd, MD
6-minute read
Episode #223

Nutrient Considerations in Vegetarians

As a vegetarian, you may be wondering, how do you know if you are getting “enough”? And enough of what, exactly?  It’s imperative to understand in case you are contemplating going vegetarian.

Protein:  The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for daily protein is 0.8 g/kg of body weight.  Nuts/seeds, peanut butter, eggs, tofu, lentils, beans, soy products, bread. Here's a list of vegetarian protein sources and their content amount.

Iron:  Iron-fortified cereal, kidney beans, peas, nuts, lentils, spinach, whole wheat bread, and some dried fruits are good sources of iron. Here's a helpful list of iron-rich food sources.

Calcium:  Some vegetarians, most especially vegans, need to make sure they are receiving their calcium from other resources. Many foods are now fortified with calcium: orange juice, cereal, tofu, soy milk and products, etc. Leafy greens, carrots, broccoli and other veggies are also a good source of calcium. Here are some calcium-rich food sources.

Vitamin D:  If you don’t get enough sunlight, it’s also important to take Vitamin D supplements. Many calcium supplements also contain Vitamin D, as it also aids in absorption of calcium. For vitamin D resources besides sunlight (which is not always the right answer either, given the risk of skin cancer), here's a great list.

Vitamin B12:  Only contained in animal products, but this does include dairy for Lacto-Ovo vegetarians. But a daily supplement is often recommended for vegans. Here's some more information on vitamin B12.

If you are a picky eater, are reluctant to eat a variety of food groups, or are not certain if you are receiving enough of the recommended nutrients in your diet, a multivitamin daily is also a good addition to your daily regimen. 

Vegetarian Resources:

There now is an immense amount of information online about vegetarianism, including recipe ideas and meal planning.  Here is my personal running list of resources:

·       Vegetarian Nutrition Resource List

·       Vegetarian Nutrition

·      USDA 2015 Dietary Guidelines

·       The food pyramid was replaced by “my plate” in 2011.  Here’s the vegetarian version.

Share your ideas and learn more quick and dirty tips with us on the House Call Doctor’s FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest pages! If you learned anything here today, or simply enjoy all-things-medical, you can also listen and subscribe to the House Call Doctor podcast on iTunes, Spotify, GooglePlay, and Stitcher.

Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only.  This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider.  Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.

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Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only. This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider. Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.

About the Author

Sanaz Majd, MD

Dr. Sanaz Majd is a board-certified Family Medicine physician who graduated from Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. Her special interests are women's health and patient education.