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Vegetarian Essentials: 7 Nutrition-Packed Foods to Load Your Plate With

From lentils and grains to tofu and seaweed, here are some nutritious vegetarian foods you must load up on.

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Vegetarian Essentials: 7 Nutrition-Packed Foods to Load Your Plate With
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Vegetarians show a lower rate of cancer, high blood pressure and heart disease when compared to their non-vegetarian counterparts.

So this is definitely a great way to eat. That said, as a strict vegetarian scoring some vital nutrients – protein, iron, calcium, zinc, vitamin B12 and vitamin D — might be a bit of a stretch.

The diet, therefore, needs some serious calibration and a lot of conscious thought.

Incorporating the below-mentioned eight foods into their diets can help vegetarians ensure a more balanced plate and better health quotient.

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Tofu

Tofu is packed with protein, iron, and zinc.

(Photo: iStock)

It packs a punch of protein, iron, zinc, and even some omega-3 fatty ac-ids. Calcium-loaded tofu can help cover a big portion of your daily need of this bone health mineral many of us struggle to get enough of.

It also gives you that all-important dose of vitamin D, which is difficult to find in food sources. This helps your body to absorb the calcium better, and also keep your immunity high, aches and pains away and mood stable.

Lentils

Lentils and nutritious and versatile.

(Photo: iStock)

Get your dose of soluble fibre and protein from lentils. They also deliver a lot of iron.

These are important for everyone (as meeting protein needs is always a stretch for most of us, especially vegetarians), but is particularly important for vegetarian pregnant women because these deliver lots of vitamin B and folic acid, and all women of childbearing age must load up on these nutrients.

Add lentils to your salads, soups, casseroles and stews too, besides pairing them with rice and roti.

Beans

Beans are the best way to get almost one third your daily dose of iron.

(Photo: iStock)

Beans are the best way to get almost one-third your daily dose of iron and protein and at least half your daily requirement of fibre.

They also give you a good dose of potassium, zinc, vitamin B and calcium. So load up on red kidney beans, chickpeas, white kidney beans, and other beans.

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Grains

Don't cut down on whole grains. Your gut microbiome will thank you.

(Photo: iStock)

Grains are great. Especially if they are fortified with vitamin B12. So make sure you get a good dose of whole cereals, pastas, whole wheat bread, and pastas.

Vegetarians going on a no-carb diet are asking for trouble. These grains give you the immunity-boosting zinc and gut-friendly insoluble fibre.

They also help eliminate cholesterol from your system and reduce the chances of you getting digestive disorders.

Good to know: The protein you get from meat, poultry, eggs, and fish is complete because they contain sufficient levels of all essential amino acids. Plant proteins, on the other hand tend, to be low in one or the other of the essential acids.

For example, the amino acid lysine is low in beans while rice is rich in it. The good news however, is that the amino acid one food lacks, you can replenish through another.

So through the course of the day ensure your dose of nuts, wheat, brown rice, seeds, and whole grains to meet your dietary needs easily.

Nuts

Low on Omega-3 fatty acids? grab a handful of nuts.

(Photo: iStock)

Quick to pick up, easily available, and universally loved, nuts are a great source of protein and multiple other essential nutrients.

Walnuts, peanuts, almonds, pistachios, cashews – all of them contain a lot of zinc, vitamin E, and omega-3 fatty acids.

While they are high in calories, when eaten in moderation they don’t lead to weight gain.

Plus they fill you up (and keep you satisfied for long) so you can avoid over-indul-gence.

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Leafy Greens

Don't skip out on your leafy greens!

(Photo: iStock)

Spinach, broccoli, kale, mustard greens, radish greens – they deliver your much-needed supply of iron.

Plus they are high in folic acid, calcium and vitamin A, and also contain cancer fighting antioxidants so are a must add to the diet. But these rich sources of iron need to be taken in conjunction with vitamin C to aid absorption.

So add lime juice or sprinkle a little vinegar on top to help the body absorb the iron better.

Seaweed

Seaweed is an excellent source of minerals.

(Photo: iStock)

Spirulina and kelp are seaweed we are familiar with. Agar, nori, and alaria are ones we should get to know better.

Excellent sources of min-erals they give you magnesium, calcium, iodine, iron and vitamins A, C, and E and lots of vitamin B too - they are virtually a super superfood.

Add them to sandwiches, soups, and just about anything else to get your daily dose of potent health-boosting nutrients.

(Kavita is a nutritionist, weight management consultant and health writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico), Ultimate Grandmother Hacks: 50 Kickass Traditional Habits for a Fitter You (Rupa) and Fix it with foods.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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