Being a vegetarian is no cakewalk as the diet often lacks certain proteins and vitamins. Non-vegetarians can easily obtain these from meat, poultry and fish.
“A complete balanced vegetarian diet has no deficiencies if it is well planned,” said consulting dietician, Jyoti Lalwani. “But most of the vegetarian diets we calculate in our diet history are relatively low in protein, especially of the first class quality, iron, zinc, vitamin B12, and calcium.
The ideal vegetarian diet
A vegetarian diet should be inclusive of all food groups like whole grain cereals, pulses, sprouts, dry fruits and nuts, fresh fruits and vegetables, oil, ghee, and milk or its products. Meat products contain additional vitamins and minerals. These may include vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B6, vitamin B12, Niacin, and Iron.
In fact, most meat substitutes are made from either soy protein, wheat protein (wheat gluten) or a combination of the two.
Soy protein has been shown to be equal to proteins of animal origin. It can even be the sole protein source. Proteins are used to make the body’s building blocks, called amino acids for the blood, skin, cartilage, muscles and bones, hormones and enzymes.
Milk and soybeans provide all the 9 essential amino acids.
Vegetarian diet tips
Here’s what you can eat to ensure your diet has the right quantity of proteins:
Besides brewers and nutritional yeast, good sources of vitamin B1 include legumes, whole grains, unrefined cereals, rice bran, seeds (sesame, sunflower), and peanuts.
Vitamin B6 acts as a catalyst for the body’s chemical reactions. It is present in complex carbohydrates like whole grains, most vegetables, nuts, pulses, and seeds.
Soymilk and cereals help treat a vitamin D deficiency.
Cereals, nutritional yeast and soymilk, or soy analogues, provide vitamin B12.
Vitamin C-rich fruits enable easy absorption of iron and must be included in large portions.
Dried beans, spinach, brewer’s yeast and dried fruits are all good plant sources of iron.
The best sources of niacin or vitamin B3 are raw crimini mushrooms, asparagus, and collard greens. Other niacin-rich vegetables include mustard greens, carrots and raw tomatoes