Vegetarian diets vary widely. The pure vegetarian consumes foods from plants only. These foods include fruits, beans and peas, vegetables, grains, seeds, and nuts. A variation on the pure vegetarian diet includes milk and milk products such as yogurt and cheeses. The next level includes eggs in the overall list of items consumed. Finally, there is the semi-vegetarian diet which does not include red meat but does allow fish, chicken and fish as well as eggs and dairy products.
The biggest issue with vegetarians is nutrition. They have to make sure they get all the nutrients their bodies need. The vegetarian has to plan out his diet to ensure he gets the essential building blocks for his body. The building blocks include protein, calcium, Vitamin B-12, Iron, and Zinc.
While supplements may be helpful, by enjoying a wide variety of foods, the vegetarian can ensure that she gets the nutrients she needs.
Eggs and milk are excellent sources of protein. However, your diet does not include eggs or milk; protein can be supplied by soy products, beans and peas, seeds and whole grains. Nuts are even a good source of protein.
Low-fat, dairy foods and dark green vegetables provide a ready of source of calcium. These green vegetables include spinach, kale, broccoli, turnips, and collard greens. Fortified soymilk and fruit juices are an additional source for calcium.
In order to produce red blood cells and prevent anemia (a low supply of iron), the body must have vitamin B-12. While this vitamin is found almost exclusively in animal products, including milk, eggs, and cheese, enriched cereals or supplements are available.
To supply essential amounts of iron, you should be sure to include dried beans and peas, lentils, enriched cereals, whole-grain products, those leafy green vegetables, and dried fruits in your diet.
Finally, zinc, which plays a role in cell division and the formation of proteins, can be supplied by whole grains, soy products, wheat germ, and nuts. If the zinc supplement route is chosen, the supplement should contain no more than 15 – 18 mg of zinc. Research has shown that excessive doses of zinc will lower the "good" cholesterol levels in some people.
For any diet, but especially a vegetarian diet, variety is the key to successfully supplying your body's nutritional requirements. The prudent use of nutritional supplements can only help.