No single food can provide all the macro- and micronutrients your body needs. The vegan diet is a more restrictive diet as eggs and dairy products are avoided. Therefore, we must know which nutrients can be a problem from the normal vegan diet. We must be careful to get these from our foods or if necessary the right supplements must be considered.

These nutrients include:

• Calcium
• Iron
• Iodine
• Zinc
• Vitamin B12
• Vitamin D
• Protein
• Omega-3 fatty acids

Calcium – It is difficult to get enough calcium if we avoid milk and dairy products. The dark green vegetables are the good sources of calcium. But, these vegetables must be eaten in sufficient quantities. 400g to 500g vegetables are to be eaten daily. Calcium enriched and fortified juices, cereals and soy products can also be taken. Remember calcium is very important for your bone health. Supplements must be organic salts.

Iron – the role of red blood cells in transporting oxygen to all our cells are well known. From plant foods it is difficult to absorb iron and so almost double the amount of iron must be taken compared to non-vegetarians. Dried peas and beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, whole grain products, dried fruits and dark leafy green vegetables are good sources of iron. Vitamin C is needed to absorb iron and so with every meal vitamin C rich foods must also be taken. Citrus fruits, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage and strawberries are rich in vitamin C. Consult with your doctor before you use iron supplements. These should not be takes for longer periods.

Iodine – it is important for thyroid hormones which help to regulate growth, metabolism and the function of important organs such as the heart, brain, thyroid and kidney. The best way to get iodine is to use iodized salts in everyday cooking. It is advisable to keep the iodized salts on the table.

Zinc – it is an essential element in more than 350 enzymes and plays a vital role in cell division and protein synthesis. It is important for our immune system and free radical scavenging system. It plays a vital role in the reproduction. Whole grain products, soy products, nuts, seeds, lentils, beans and wheat germ are good sources of zinc. Zinc is not easily absorbed from the plant food. Organic salts of zinc can be considered as food supplement.

Vitamin B12 – it is important to prevent anemia, to produce red blood cells and in the regulation of homocysteine. It is found exclusively in animal food. Vitamin B12 supplements enriched cereals and fortified soy products are recommended for regular intake.

Vitamin D – it is important for calcium absorption and thus is essential for bone health. Sun light produces in our skin vitamin D from cholesterol. If there is not enough sun light it is better to take supplements from plants.

Protein – it is important for muscles, organs, bones and skin. It is possible to get enough protein from the vegetarian food. Legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds, whole grain products and soy products are rich in protein.

Omega-3 fatty acids – these are important for cardiovascular health and in the development of eyes and brain. They reduce inflammation and very important for cell health also. The foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids are flax seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, soy products and dark green vegetables.

A vegetarian food is very healthy if we limit the amount of carbohydrates intake. Vegetarians consume too many carbohydrates than non-vegetarians.