What Do Vegetarians Eat For Protein And Iron

With All Of This Iron Readily Available In Our Food Supply Should You Also Be Taking An Iron Supplement

What Do Vegans Eat for Proteins?

This depends on many factors including age, genetics, overall diet, whether youre a man or a woman, breastfeeding, pregnancy, etc. Ive been vegetarian for over 25 years and the only time I have needed an iron supplement was during pregnancy. Other people may find they need to take one on a regular basis to keep their iron stores adequate.

The only way to know for sure whether you need a supplement is to have a blood test and have both your hemoglobin and iron stores checked. Supplemental iron comes in many different forms, so be sure to speak to a health care professional about choosing the one thats right for you.

Food Sources Of 5 Important Nutrients For Vegetarians

No matter which vegetarian eating style you follow, it is important to choose a variety of foods, including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds. This can help you make sure you are meeting your nutritional needs each day.


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
  • Some leafy green vegetables including collard greens, turnip greens and kale
  • Broccoli
  • Beans including soybeans, chickpeas and black beans
  • Almonds and almond butter


Vegetarians should consume a variety of iron sources to meet daily requirements. Consuming a source of vitamin C at each meal helps increase iron absorption.

  • Some dark leafy greens including spinach and chard
  • Beans
  • Eggs


Protein is found in 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
  • Eggs

Vitamin B12

Vegetarian sources of B12 include:

Vitamin D


How To Keep Your Iron Levels Up On A Vegan Diet

By Alex Hicks | Communications Strategist

Its a common misconception that vegetarians and vegans, since they do not consume meat, are unable to get enough iron in their diets to safely donate blood. Well, we are here to give you the facts! While some vegans and vegetarians may have to watch their diet more closely, it is completely possible and normal to get enough iron and donate blood on these diets!

The root of this misconception seems to stem from a misunderstanding about different types of iron that people can get from food. Heme iron, which is found in animal products , is more easily absorbed by the body. However, non-heme iron, which is found in plants, is still a viable option to meet your bodys needs. As long as you consume enough iron, your donation experience should be no different than an omnivores!

Here are some tips on how to keep your iron levels high enough to donate blood on a vegan or vegetarian diet:

Why Iron Is Important

Iron, a mineral found in foods that we consume, combines with certain proteins to make hemoglobin in your red blood cells. The red blood cells, in turn, carry oxygen throughout your body. So its important when donating blood that you have a high enough iron level to ensure that your body has the number of red cells it needs to carry enough oxygen through your body.

Types of Iron

Foods with Non-Heme Iron

Plenty of plant-based foods are rich with iron, but here are some examples with the highest amount of iron per serving:

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Limit Foods High In Fat Salt And Sugar

Foods high in salt, fat and sugar, such as cream, chocolate, crisps, biscuits, pastries, ice cream, cakes and puddings, should be eaten less often and in small amounts.

Foods in this group mainly provide energy in the form of fats and sugars, but may only provide a very small amount of other nutrients.

The Easy Way For Vegans To Get Enough Protein Every Day

Vegan Sources of Iron

As it turns out, I weigh around 140 pounds, so the 83 grams of protein mentioned above is right about what I aim for.

So how do I get my 83 grams of protein per day?

My approach to getting enough protein is very simple:

Make sure you include a decent protein source, even if just a little bit, in every meal or snack.

Mainly, this just keeps you mindful and prevents you from slipping into junk-food-vegan, carbohydrate-only mode.

So what does this mean in terms of actual foods? Try these:

  • Adding protein powder to your smoothie.
  • Eating a whole-wheat bagel with peanut or almond butter for a snack.
  • Including beans in your pasta dishes .
  • Lots of lentils.
  • Hummus on a whole wheat pita for a snack.
  • Putting nuts on your salad or eating them alone as a snack.
  • Eating quinoa as part of the main dish or a side.
  • Occasionally eating soy products, like tempeh, but dont forget all the high-protein vegan alternatives to soy!

See? No huge numbers here, but mix in a few of them every day, and its no problem at all to get anywhere from 60-100 grams of protein, especially when you count all the other foods you eat that contain smaller amounts of protein. My point here isnt to get you to start counting protein grams throughout the day I certainly dont do that but you can see just how easy it is to get the protein you need.

A few other favorite, high-protein vegan recipes:

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Are Vegetarian Diets Healthy

Vegetarian diets can be healthy and may even lower the risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and cancer. However, eating balanced meals and snacks requires some extra attention when you are a vegetarian. Because vegetarians dont have certain foods in their diets, they often need to work to incorporate foods that will provide the same nutrients they might have previously obtained through animal products. By eating a variety of foods including fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, soy products, and whole grains, vegetarians can get adequate nutrients from nonmeat sources. Vegetarians, especially vegans, need to pay attention to ensure that they get enough protein, iron, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and omega3 fatty acids.


Carbohydrates provide energy and vitamins for your brain and muscles. Grain products, especially whole grains, are very important because they provide the carbohydrate, fiber, and many vitamins and minerals that your body needs. Vegetarians should be sure to eat a variety of whole grains such as whole wheat bread, pasta and tortillas, brown rice, oats, bulgur, and quinoa.

Fat is needed by your body to stay healthy. Fat provides essential fatty acids and helps your body absorb certain vitamins. Excellent sources of healthy fats include nuts and nut butters, oils, and avocados.



How Do Vegetarians Get Enough Protein

Vegetarians may be at risk of having a protein deficiency, so its important to incorporate more plant-based protein into your diet.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture , most adult women should eat about 5 ounces of protein a day, while most adult men should eat between 5.5 and 6 ounces. One egg, one tablespoon of peanut butter, or half an ounce of nuts or seeds is equal to one ounce of protein. Meeting these goals can be done easily by adding plant-based proteins to every meal.

The USDA recommends building your meals around proteins such as beans, lentils, and rice. Think about which of these foods you like and how you can incorporate them throughout your day. Here are some examples of plant-based protein sources for you to try:

After choosing your favorite protein sources from the list above, start looking for recipes to try for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Be adventurous and add new items to your grocery list. Its a lot of fun to research recipes before heading to the supermarket.

For more information on maintaining a healthy diet, consult a registered dietitian at UPMC.

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Drink Your Tea Separately From Your Meal

Remember how Pett pointed out that tea made absorbing iron harder? That doesn’t mean you have to give it up for the sake of your iron intake. Gorin says you can just enjoy your cup before or after you eat. Doing so will actually work in your favor. “Consuming nonheme iron and tea in the same sitting may inhibit the absorption of iron. But if you separate your tea from your meal, this could help your body absorb more of the iron,” she says. In fact, a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that when subjects consumed an iron-containing porridge an hour apart from tea, this heightened how much nonheme iron was absorbed from the meal.

How Much Protein Do I Need

Proteins | Best Protein Powder | High Protein Foods for Vegetarians & Vegans

Protein is essential because its used to build and repair cells. The NHS says we need 0.75g of protein for each kilogram of body mass.

So if you weigh 70kg you should aim for around 52.5g of protein each day.

On average, if your BMI is in the healthy range, it works out at 55g for men and 45g for women.

But if like me, youve started vegetarian life floundering around in the fridge wondering how much protein a lettuce contains, heres a handy guide to some common foods:

  • Medium-sized egg 6.4g
  • 400g tin of Heinz beans 20g
  • 100g of peas 5g
  • 100g of non-fat Greek yogurt 10g
  • 100g of Quorn 14.5g
  • 100g chickpeas 19g
  • 100ml of milk 3.5g

So if you have a tin of beans as part of a plant-based lunch and add some grated cheese, youre roughly there. Or try a chickpea salad with a Greek yogurt for lunch and add some peas to your dinner bingo.

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Other Types Of Vegetarian Diets

In addition to becoming vegan, kids sometimes try other types of vegetarian diets, including:

  • Lacto-vegetarianism: includes dairy products
  • Lacto-ovo vegetarianism: includes eggs, dairy products, and honey
  • Ovo-vegetarianism: includes eggs
  • Semi-vegetarianism: includes occasional animal products

The fewer foods you restrict, the easier it will be to follow and plan your child’s vegetarian diet.

There Are Actually Two Types Of Iron And Vegan Iron Sources Are Harder To Digest

To understand vegetarian iron, you need to know about heme and non-heme iron. Heme iron comes from animal products such as meat and seafood, explains Gorin. Its found in the blood proteins and hemoglobin of these animalsthe same places you find it in humans. Non-heme iron comes from plant-based foods, such as beans, fortified cereal, nuts, and vegetables,” she says.

The heme iron found in animal products is more bioavailable, which means your body can absorb and use it more efficiently than non-heme iron. In fact, its estimated that iron absorption in meat eaters is 14 to 18 percent, whereas iron absorption for vegetarians in 8 to 12 percent.

The recommended daily intake for iron accounts for bioavailability by assuming that only a fraction of the iron eaten is absorbed, says Pett. She says That bioavailability is likely lower for plant-based eaters, than omnivores because their iron sources are purely the non-heme kind.

That’s why Gorin says even though it’s recommended that women ages 19 to 50 should eat 18 milligrams of iron per day , they should be eating more of it if they’re vegetarian or vegan. “They should be taking in 1.8 times the amount recommended for meat-eaters, she says. This comes out to about 32 milligrams per day for women ages 19 to 50, and 14 milligrams per day for women ages 51 and above.

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A Vegetarian Diet During Pregnancy

During pregnancy and when breastfeeding, vegetarians need to make sure they get enough vitamins and minerals for their child to develop healthily.

If you’re bringing up your baby or child on a vegetarian diet, you need to make sure they eat a wide variety of foods to provide the energy and vitamins they need for growth.

Daily Intake Requirements Of Iron For Vegans

Iron chart

Health Canada recommends that plant-based eaters consume 1.8x more iron per day compared to people who consume a mixed diet of plant-based and animal-based foods 4. While there is debate over this recommendation, its the best we have until further research is conducted to examine the long-term effects of a vegan diet on iron absorption/ iron deficiency.

The recommended dietary allowance for iron varies by age and gender. For women age 19-50 years the recommendation is 18mg of iron per day 4. For men over the age of 19 years and women over 50 years , the recommendation is 8 mg per day 4.

After taking into account that plant-based eaters need 1.8x more iron, vegetarian women age 19-50 need about 32 mg per day while vegetarian men need about 14 mg per day.

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Dairy Or Dairy Alternatives Are Needed For Calcium

Milk and dairy products, such as cheese and yoghurt, are good sources of protein, calcium and vitamins A and B12.

This food group includes milk and dairy alternatives, such as fortified unsweetened soya, rice and oat drinks, which also contain calcium.

To make healthier choices, go for lower fat milk and dairy foods. Also choose lower sugar options.

Getting Protein From Vegetarian

  • 1Don’t ignore the basic protein sources from the vegan diet.XTrustworthy SourceUSDA Center for Nutrition Policy and PromotionU.S. agency responsible for promoting good nutrition based on scientific researchGo to source A vegetarian diet isn’t as strict as a vegan one, in that it allows eggs and dairy products. That doesn’t mean you should dismiss plants as a protein source, though. Most of your protein should still come from whole grains, vegetables, legumes, and nuts and seeds.
  • 2Eat eggs in moderation. A single chicken egg can provide 6 g of protein with just 71 calories and no carbohydrates.XResearch source You can start your day off with boiled or scrambled eggs, or add boiled eggs to your salads. You can also add scrambled eggs to a soba noodle stir fry or fried brown rice dish with vegetables and tofu. Overindulging in eggs, though, can lead to high cholesterol.XTrustworthy SourceMayo ClinicEducational website from one of the world’s leading hospitalsGo to source
  • Eating up to 1 egg each day is healthy for people who have otherwise normal cholesterol levels.
  • If you have diabetes or heart disease, don’t eat more than 3 egg yolks a week.XResearch source
  • Goat’s milk has 8.7 g of protein and 10. g of fat per serving.
  • Sheep’s milk has 15 g of protein and 17 g of fat per serving.
  • If you are lactose intolerant, soy and nut milks can help you boost your protein intake.
  • Most cheeses, like cheddar, brie, or gouda, have 6 â 7 g of protein per ounce.
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    Benefits Of Vegan And Vegetarian Diets

    The foods in a vegan diet are typically low in cholesterol and saturated fats and high in fiber .

    Research shows that vegan diets may lead to a lower risk of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and Type II diabetes. In addition, vegetarians typically have a lower body mass index than non-vegetarians.

    These health benefits led Dr. Benjamin Spock, back in 1998, to recommend a strict vegan diet for all children over the age of 2 years.

    The last edition of his iconic parenting book, “Baby and Child Care,” published shortly after he died, advised that children shouldn’t be given dairy products after the age of two. He stated that children “can get plenty of protein and iron from vegetables, beans, and other plant foods that avoid the fat and cholesterol that are in animal products.”

    Dr. Spock’s proposal created a lot of controversies, but not because experts disputed the health benefits of a vegan diet. Rather, they thought that parents might not take enough time and effort to plan a vegan diet that included enough calories, minerals, and nutrients to ensure optimal growth in their children.

    They likely thought that children would have a hard time following the diet too, especially when you consider that most parents already have difficulty getting kids to eat enough fruits and vegetables.

    Protein Sources For Vegetarians

    HOW DO VEGANS GET PROTEIN? | top vegan protein sources | part 1

    Protein is essential for many bodily processes, including tissue building and repair. Protein is made up of smaller building blocks called amino acids. These amino acids are classed as non-essential and essential .A complete protein has all the nine essential amino acids necessary for dietary needs. Most plant foods, however, are not complete proteins they only have some of the nine essential amino acids. Soy products, quinoa and amaranth seeds are some of the few exceptions of a complete vegetable protein.It was once thought that vegetarians and vegans needed to combine plant foods at each meal to ensure they consumed complete proteins . Recent research has found this is not the case.Consuming various sources of amino acids throughout the day should provide the complete complement of protein. Generally, if energy intake is sufficient, vegetarian diets can meet or exceed their protein requirements, but some vegan diets may be low in protein. Some good vegetarian sources of protein include:

    Its recommended that vegetarians and vegans eat legumes and nuts daily, along with wholegrain cereals and pseudo-cereals, to ensure adequate nutrient intakes.

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