Vitamins and minerals


Let's take a closer look at the vitamins and minerals often found in meat and animal products, and some veggie foods that can provide them.


Iron

Your body needs oxygen to stay alive. The body can't use oxygen, though, without iron. Iron is an important part of hemoglobin (say: HEE-muh-glow-bin), the part of your red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body.

Iron is a little harder to get from plant sources because it is not absorbed into the body as well as the iron that comes from animal sources. Vegetarians can get the iron they need from cooked dried beans, like kidney beans or chickpeas, baked potatoes with skins, dried fruits (like raisins), whole and enriched grains (like wheat or oats), iron-fortified cereals and bread, and leafy green vegetables (like broccoli and kale). Vitamin C (found in many fruits and veggies) enhances the absorption of iron, while calcium (found in milk and other dairy products) can block iron absorption.


Calcium and Vitamin D

Calcium helps your body build strong teeth and bones. Dairy products (like milk, cheese, and yogurt) contain calcium. Vegetarians who don't eat dairy products can get calcium from leafy green vegetables, but this may not be enough for kids, who are still growing. If dairy is not a part of your diet, look for calcium-fortified products, like orange juice, soy milk, and some breads and cereals, or talk to your doctor about taking a calcium supplement.

Vitamin D helps calcium get into your bones. Some foods, including calcium-fortified foods, contain vitamin D. But your body can actually make vitamin D when it's exposed to sunlight. So whether you eat meat or not, be sure and go outside to play!


Zinc

You probably know your body is made up of cells that are so small you can't see them. Zinc helps those cells grow. It also helps the body heal cuts and scrapes and is important to your body's immune system. You can find zinc in legumes (a fancy word for beans, peas, lentils, and peanuts), whole grains, and nuts. However, it's easier for your body to absorb zinc from meat, eggs, and seafood.


Protein

Protein is part of every cell in the body. It is needed to maintain bones, muscles, and organs. Like iron, it's an important part of hemoglobin, the part of red blood cells that carry oxygen to the body. And protein is essential for growth.

Vegetarians can meet protein requirements by eating a variety of plant sources each day, such as nuts, peanut butter, tofu, beans, seeds, soy milk, grains, cereals, and vegetables. Eggs and milk are excellent sources of protein for lacto-ovo vegetarians.


Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is found in animal products. The body needs it to help build DNA and red blood cells. It also helps your nerve cells work. Vegetarians can get B12 from milk and eggs, vitamin-fortified foods cereals and bread, and nutritional yeast. Vegans may still need a supplement.

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