Calcium

Vegetarians should consume a variety of calcium sources in order to meet daily requirements.

Dairy products are a rich source of calcium. If your diet does not include dairy products, calcium can be obtained from plant-based foods, but the amount of calcium that the body can absorb from these foods varies. Here is a list of vegetarian-friendly sources of calcium:

  • Low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt and cheese
  • Fortified plant-based milks such as soy or almond
  • Fortified ready-to-eat cereals
  • Calcium-fortified juice
  • Calcium-set tofu
  • Some leafy green vegetables including collard greens, turnip greens and kale
  • Broccoli
  • Beans including soybeans, chickpeas and black beans
  • Almonds and almond butter

Iron

Vegetarians should consume a variety of iron sources to meet daily requirements. Consuming a good source of vitamin C (citrus fruits, peppers, tomatoes) at each meal increases iron absorption.

Sources include:

  • Fortified breakfast cereals
  • Soybeans
  • Some dark leafy greens including spinach and chard
  • Beans
  • Eggs

Protein

Protein is found in most plant foods as well as animal foods. Your body will make its own complete protein if a variety of foods and enough calories are eaten during the day.

Vegetarian sources of protein include:

  • Legumes such as beans, peas and lentils
  • Whole grains
  • Soy products
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Dairy products
  • Eggs

Vitamin B12

B12 is found in all foods of animal origin, including eggs and dairy products. An adequate intake of vitamin B12 generally is not a concern for vegetarians who eat some dairy products or eggs. Vegans, however, need to supplement their diet by choosing foods fortified with vitamin B12 or by taking a vitamin B12 (cobalamin) supplement.

Vegetarian sources of B12 include:

  • Vitamin B12-fortified foods including nutritional yeast, soy milk, meat analogs and ready-to-eat cereals (be sure to check the label).
  • Dairy products
  • Eggs

Vitamin D

Few foods are naturally high in vitamin D, but many dairy products are fortified with vitamin D in the United States. People who choose not to eat dairy products and who do not receive exposure to sunlight on a regular basis should discuss the need to take a vitamin D supplement with their health care provider.

Vegetarian sources of vitamin D include:

  • Eggs
  • Vitamin D-fortified soy milk, cow's milk, orange juice and ready-to-eat cereals

Information provided by Vegetarian Nutrition, a dietetic practice group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.